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Posts Tagged ‘expectations’

Listening Is More Than Hearing

November 7th, 2018

Attentive listening prompts obedience  

“Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourself.” James 1:22 NKJV.

My thoughts and comments today are that,

“Listening is more than hearing.”

My Dad expected obedience. With him, obedience was the norm. If I did not respond accordingly, he would kindly ask if I heard him. He rightly assumed that if I heard him, obedience would be my response. My Dad never threatened me with, “Obey me or else.” My success was his highest hopes for my life. His love was generous and steadfast. His expectations were reasonable and clear.

I regret the times my dad needed to ask, “Allen, did you hear me?” Sometimes, it seems I can still hear his voice when I need reminding that obedience is the best way forward. When there was an issue, the problem was never about my ability to hear; it was always about my willingness to obey. My Dad’s expectation was that if I were truly listening to him, I would hear him clearly and correctly, and I would respond obediently. And I would obey him promptly and completely. He was right to expect that, as is God.

Attentive listening and prompt obedience are two things essential and invaluable for your success in life. Here are two practical realities. You must do more than just listen. You have to obey. If you do not do more than listen, you will not understand what God is saying? And if you don’t understand, how can you obey completely? The Bible says, “These blessings shall come on you . . if you will hearken to the voice of the Lord.” Read Deuteronomy 28:1-14 NKJ. Obedience releases unexpected blessings. The New Testament seems to echo, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourself.” James 1:22 NKJ.

Why do we entertain so many voices, as well as our own inner voice of ideas and opinions? Why would you and I allow meaningless noise to drown out the gentle and essential voice of the Holy Spirit? Why would we listen to voices which deceive, mislead, or distract?

When God spoke to the young Samuel, his response was simple and honest, “Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:10. Samuel placed himself in the posture of a servant prepared to obey whatever God said. Should we do anything other than that? Samuel’s attention and recognition of God’s voice implies that he was listening in order to obey whatever God said. And God had a lot to tell him because the young Samuel was willing to listen when others did not.

You would like to know your future, but you cannot apart from God. Life is lived one day at a time. Ever wonder what God is longing to tell you about what lies ahead? Would you breathe easier today, and worry less about tomorrow, if you knew that God has everything under His control?

When you listen with a predisposition to obey, you will hear the truth-telling whisper of the Spirit in your heart assuring you that, “The Lord goes before you and will be with you . . do not be afraid.” Read Joshua 1:7-9 NIV. Live with a heart to know and obey God; doing so allows you to live with blessed assurance and complete confidence.

My prayer for you today is that you will live confidently and obediently.

Christian Communications 2018

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Hope and Optimism

January 6th, 2017

You crown the year with Your goodness; Your paths drip with abundance.” Psalm 65:11

Optimism is the language of hope.

My thoughts and comments today are about “hope and optimism.”

God’s Word holds so much promise for this time of year. Optimism hears God’s whisper in your heart that your past need be no predictor of your future. Optimism is the language of hope. Let the New Year reflect your hope, not your tears. Tears express yesterday’s disappointment; hope affirms the promises and providence God holds for your future.

My thoughts have been drawn to the Psalmist David’s declaration of hope, “You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance . . the pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered with grain; they shout for joy, they also sing.” Read Psalm 65:9-13 NKJV. Take a moment and re-read those verses, deliberately and thoughtfully. A more contemporary translation reads, “What a rich harvest your goodness provides! Wherever you go there is plenty.” Psalm 65:11 TEV.

Pause and reflect over what King David wrote. He joins the past, present, and future and rejoices that amid all, God is generously benevolent. I love David’s poetic imagery. The year – every single day of it – is crowned, adorned with the faithfulness and goodness of God. Prophetically, David declares that his and your journey throughout the year, “overflows with abundance.” David further describes God as the One, “Bless the Lord, o my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord o my soul and forget not all of His benefits . . Who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things.” Read Psalm 103:1-5 NKJV. Out of His goodness, God, “heals . . forgives . . redeems . . crowns . . satisfies.” There is consistency in the nature and character of God.

Deliberation at the close of a year and the fresh beginnings of a new year can be beneficial when appraising the recent past; a lovely place to visit, not a place to dwell. Whatever your previous experience, God has even better things ahead for you. Embracing and rejoicing in God’s provision is your righteous response to God’s goodness. David had no doubts; the goodness of God was assured and unchanging. “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6 NLT.

A New Year can be, and should be, a freshly hopeful season for you. But a change of calendar alone is inadequate to accomplish that. Whatever your circumstances, I do know that all things didn’t always go the way you planned last year. They never do. Expectations are rarely as you hope. Relationships seldom endure as you would like. Explanations rarely come when you expect. But God will be as He has promised to be. Your past is settled in grace; the present is safely in His care; your future is secure in His providence and, “crowned with goodness.”         

Praying for a Blessed and Graced New Year for you.

Christian Communications 2016

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Options and Expectations

May 12th, 2014

“Much more is required from the person to whom much more is given.” Luke 12:48 TEV.

Discipleship is the process of relinquishing more and more options.

My thoughts and comments today are about “options and expectations.”

I don’t really like that word, “required.” I would much prefer God used the word, “optional.” But He doesn’t. There is really not much about life that is optional. You will discover that things that require little and are left to your option do not promise much if any reward. Here is a principle of life: assuming an increased level of responsibility is the only path to truly growing. That’s true in matters spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

That means accepting less as being optional for you and embracing more than is expected of you, even when wanting to do otherwise. Discipleship is the continuing process of relinquishing more and more options. To some, Jesus said, “Follow Me.” To others, Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23-24 NIV. You must learn to joyfully take responsibility for your decisions, mistakes, well being, success, and happiness, not from any insistence of independence but as just doing what is expected – simply being responsible.

The Bible speaks of many things that are required in your Christian faith, not optional. Faith in Jesus is non-negotiable, required not optional. See Hebrews 11:6 NLT. Responsible stewardship is required, not optional. Paul wrote, “It is required that those who have been given a trust prove faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4:2 NIV.

“And much more is required from the person to whom much more is given!” Luke 12:48 TEV. Jesus said that when accepting all that has been generously given to you by God and man, “much more will be required.” The more you are given, the more that is required of you, and that only increases as you grow and progress. That seems only fair. Refuse what’s required and you do not continue to experience generosity in the same measure. There is a proportion to daily life that should not be avoided.

Let’s be practical about this: doing what’s required means giving up your right to make excuses, or exempting yourself from your fair share, or expecting of others more than you require of yourself . When I was preparing for a life in ministry, my Dad taught me this practical wisdom and necessity for effective leadership: “Never expect someone to do what you are not willing to do, nor expect them to give what you are not willing to give, nor expect others to go where you have not first gone.”

My prayer for you today is that you will fulfill realistic expectations, and so much more than expected.

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When Push Comes to Shove

March 25th, 2013

“They were about to . . take Him by force to make Him king.” John 6:15 NKJV.

Jesus will not be King at the time or terms of anyone but His Father.

My thoughts and comments today discuss “times when push comes to shove.”

Has anyone pressured you to become what they want you to be? Have you tried pressuring someone? How did that work out for you? Not so well, I would imagine. Manipulation of another is rarely successful and never as satisfying as you hoped. Yet many people insist God be and do as they wish. How has that worked out for you? Not so well either, I would imagine. But people still try.

Chastening Israel for their idolatry, the prophet Isaiah describes the folly of a man cutting wood to warm himself, roast his meat, “and of the residue he makes a god . . falls down and worships it, prays to it, and says, ’Deliver me for you are my god.’” Isaiah 44:17. How foolish you say? Without success, people try to force God to be what they prefer or do what they insist. A god of your making is not much of a god. Idolatry is not always the inadequate representation of God in wood or stone; more commonly, idolatry can take the form of your demands and expectations of God, to suit your convenience or pleasure.

God made you, “in His image and likeness.” He will not allow you to make Him, “into your image and likeness” – a god subservient to demands, catering to whims, excusing faults, indulging sins, supplying wants, requiring little, and giving much. God will not be coerced nor obliged to you. At all times, He will remain true to His nature, character, wisdom, and purpose. There always seemed efforts to force Jesus to comply in ways contrary to the Father or Jesus’ own substitutionary purpose – such as the Tempter’s taunting in the wilderness, the criticism and plotting of religious leaders, the resistance of His disciples, or the mocking crowd at the cross, “If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross . . and we will believe.” See Matthew 27:40-44 NKJV.

Following Jesus’ miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fish, John reported, “When they had seen the sign that Jesus did, [they] said, ‘This is truly the Prophet [we have been expecting] (NLT).’  Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.” John 6:14-15 NKJV. Imagine; to fit their expectations, people would attempt “by force to make Him king.”

Manage your reaction when God or others do not promptly bend to your will. Earlier in Jesus’ ministry, some people in His home synagogue in Nazareth became so angry with His words that, “they took [Jesus] to the top of the hill on which their town was built. They meant to throw him over the cliff, but He walked through the middle of the crowd and went His way.” Read Luke 4:28-30 TEV. Most are not as violent; some just persist, plead, and pout to weary any opposition. God is too wise and loves too much to indulge your insistence.

Jesus will not be King at the time or terms of anyone but His Father, nor should you be swayed by the coercive manipulation of others. You cannot force God to act in the way you want or at the time you want, just because that’s what you want. See Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV. God’s ways are best, whatever pressure you are feeling at the moment. Be wary “when push comes to shove,” in your relationship with the Lord Jesus on your journey of faith.

My prayer for you this day is that you will let God be God and accept His timing as perfect.

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Realistic Expectations

February 27th, 2013

“Jesus . . knew what was in man.” John 2:25 NIV.

One’s better potential is possible; others’ expectations rarely are.

Patience is easy to claim until something or someone tests it. Some years ago, I met a person wearing a puzzling lapel button with an unpronounceable mixture of letters – PBPGNFWMY. My curiosity prevailed and I asked of its meaning, receiving their explanation that the letters stood for, “Please be patient; God’s not finished with me yet.” How different your life, and relationships, could be if you remembered that simple reality. We all tend to expect a lot from people, often more than their capabilities at the moment. If you remembered our common humanity, you would have more realistic expectations of yourself, as well as others.

I think there is a difference between seeing the best in another person or having unrealistic expectations of them. One’s better potential is possible; others’ expectations rarely are. Seeing the best is to believe yourself, or another, holds potential just needing encouragement to be realized, while unrealistic expectations determine what you desire a person to be and demand they become. You, and most others, are capable of more than we require of ourselves – better behavior, greater achievement, stronger discipline, or kinder interactions – but all of us often fail the expectations of one another.

Jesus knew people, perfectly. He not only identified with our humanity; Jesus embraced yours and my humanity completely, “yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:14-16 NLT. John’s Gospel explains, “Jesus did not need man’s testimony about man, for He knew what was in a man.” John 2:25 NIV. Another translation reads, “. . because Jesus knew what was in their hearts.” Today’s English Version.

I am intrigued by the idea; Jesus knows what’s in a man’s hearts. Jesus sees the best in you and works to bring out the best, but also knows your human frailty. He is neither surprised when you are your best nor when you are not. Jesus faithfully calls you to a higher standard, yet understands your best would still be imperfect. That is comforting to me because my heart and intentions are often better than my performance at a given moment.

Jesus knows my heart – that I want to be better than I am; I can be better than I am, but I am not always better than I could be. I think you who are reading this can probably identify with such a confession. My realistic expectation for you is as was Paul’s for the Philippians, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you . . being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:3-6 NIV. 1 John 3:1-3 NKJV.

Simon Peter is well known for his spiritual lapses, none more recounted than his denials of Jesus. After His Resurrection, Jesus affirmed Peter’s love. Mindful of Peter’s failure but knowing Peter’s heart, Jesus said, “Satan has desired to have you . . but I have prayed for you that your faith fail not: and when you are converted, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32 KJV. Jesus saw and believed the best of which Peter was capable. The word, “converted,” is from the Latin “convertere,” meaning “to turn around.” The word used by Luke can also describe “a rope twisted until rigid and strong.” Jesus knew Peter’s heart; Peter’s failure neither defined his past nor declared his future. Nor should yours.

My prayer for you today is that you are confident of the potential God sees in you.

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