Disastrous Disappointments

Everyone experiences disappointments in life. As long as men continue to set expectations, men will continue to be disappointed. It is not that expectations are wrong; God has expectations, and He too has been disappointed. 

When we consider the life of Jesus Christ, the Perfect, Holy, Sinless Son of God, He did not meet everyone’s expectations and thus many felt disappointment. 

Consider John the Baptist.

“Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” – Matthew 11:12-13

John had spent his time promoting Jesus Christ, building Him up before the people – in essence, building up people’s expectations for the coming Messiah.  Yet, John himself began to be disappointed that Jesus was allowing him to remain in prison.  It just didn’t seem right that someone, like John, who had been different for the cause of Christ, endured conflict with the Pharisees concerning Jesus, and spoke boldly for righteousness, would be left to rot in prison while the One Who, in his mind, was supposed to change all of that, seemed to have forgotten him in all of the attention He was receiving.  John felt a little forgotten, and a little disappointed. 

John sent his disciples to Jesus with a hint of a reminder that John was in prison, and if Jesus was truly Who John introduced Him to be, that He should make it known…and a good start would be to “get me out of jail!”

Jesus’ response may have even been disappointing to John the Baptist, because it would have revealed to John that he was putting expectations above truth and righteousness; his personal desires above the work Christ came to do.

“Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.  And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” – Matthew 11:4-6

Jesus was doing exactly what He was supposed to be doing, and wonderful things were happening; just not for John.  John, like us, was disappointed because of his own personal condition.  The fact that other people were rejoicing in what the Chrsit was doing for them, didn’t comfort John while he was suffering.  It was the “but what about me?” disease that all of us with the sin nature have from time to time. 

John was suffering for doing right, and it didn’t seem right to him.  John the Baptist was a little disappointed.  But Jesus tried to help him with a blessing for those who would not allow their disappointment in Christ to become a reason to quit.  “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”

What a lesson for all of us when we are feeling disappointed. May we learn to consider whether we are upset because someone has actually done wrong, or simply because our personal expectations have not been met?

Jesus turned the conversation back to those He was with and spoke highly of John the Baptist, and even answered some of the concerns those with Him may have had concerning John the Baptist.

He challenged their expectations.

“And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?  But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.  But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.  For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.  Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” – Matthew 11:7-11

Jesus realized that the people may begin to be disappointed with John the Baptist after this, and He questioned their expectations of him.  What did you “expect” to find in John?  Jesus had nothing but praise for John even though John was born of woman – he was flesh. We cannot set people, even our leaders, in such high expectation that when they disappoint us, “we” stumble.  It does not mean we have no expectations, but we must be realistic in our expectations.  We all have the ideal in our mind of “what should be,” but reality is not always going to match up with the utopia in our mind, and we need to be willing to get past our disappointments. 

It was part of the problem with the generation Jesus encountered, and that generation continues to resurface.

“But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.” – Matthew 11:16-17

We will always have those who call out, or express their disappointment, to those who do not perform in the way they expect them to.  The truth is, “nobody” is going to ever meet 100% of “your” expectations 100% of the time.  And this is why it doesn’t take much for people to so easily turn against those they once held in high esteem.  The longer we know someone, the more opportunity for them to disappoint us.  It is still true, “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.” (Proverbs 13:12a).   The longer it takes for us to see our expectations become reality, the harder it is. We should not lose hope, because the rest of that verse states, “but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.”

Jesus took this opportunity (or illustration) to give a great warning to those living in His time, that would, because of disappointment in Him, face destruction if they allowed their unmet expectations to keep them from accepting Him.

“Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:  Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.  And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.  But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.” – Matthew 11:20-24

May we never lose our sense of, or our desire for, righteousness.  Righteousness is a high bar for all of us, one in which we all fall short except for the righteousness imputed to us by faith in Christ. May we allow ourselves to be disappointed in others, but move pass it as we must so often do with the disappointments we have for ourselves.  Don’t allow disappointment to become a stumbling block. Don’t miss all of the good that is there because of the area of unmet expectation that is also there.  

The truth is John, Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, even if He is not meeting your expectation at the moment.  Don’t forsake Him, just because you’re hurt or disappointed. Just focus on the good He is doing, even if it does not seem to be exactly what you would hope for, concerning yourself, right now.

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Are We Out Of Times?

As if anyone who has been paying attention to American politics should be surprised, an outgoing president is going all out. He promised on his way in that he would fundamentally transform America, and for a man who has been an undisputed liar, he has kept his word with that promise.  It seems that now the straw is being laid that may break the camel’s back, as preachers start to finally voice that enough is enough. 

It is as if a sleeping giant is awaking now. It could prove to be the best thing for America’s churches to be confronted with where tolerance has led us. But, are we out of times?

The story of Samson and Delilah is one that most are familiar with. Samson, one of the judges of Israel who had incredible strength, was seduced by a Philistine woman to give up his power. Not only would he lose his sight, but also his life in one last act of heroism. 

At least three times it is recorded that Delilah called for Samson to awaken because the Philistines were upon him. Each time he showed that he was strong enough to fend off their attacks. Then she continued to press him daily until finally he revealed the truth about his strength. 

“And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him. But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house.”  – Judges 16:20-21

The world has watched us, to see which Delilahs we are attracted to. Which worldly practices we can be comfortable with. Which music? Which dress? Which activities? Little by little our compromises with the world have worn down our defenses. We’ve lost our clear distinction from the world, and the world has not given up on pressing ever so hard against the church.  Are we so sure of ourselves that we forget from where our true strength comes?  Do we think we can just get through this as “at other times before?”

I pray this is not our last chance to wise up to the world or to get back to our strength which is the Lord. Oh may we put our hope in God once again and seek His righteousness no matter what the enemies of God think of us.  It’s time we recognize the Delilahs and stop pretending we are “strong enough” to continually resist her seductions while we share her bed.  

It’s time we find the Word of God again, as in Josiah’s days, and hear it, weep, and humble ourselves. It’s time we look back as many generations as necessary to find the pattern we should follow. Of Josiah it was said he walked in “all the ways of David.”  After two wicked kings, preceded by one who was good but foolish (and selfish), there was still hope to stay God’s hand of judgment at least for Josiah’s years.  Let’s, pray for it!

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Thirsty For God

One of my favorite Scripture songs we sing is in Psalm 42. 

“As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?”

 – Psalm 42:1-2

I was asked about a Bible verse by one of our church members recently. It was one of those strange sounding verses that must be read in context or it would not make sense. 

But in our conversation I mentioned that the water Jesus offered was received by believing in Him. It is the Holy Spirit that Jesus gives to them who believe on Him. 

That led to a mention of the woman at the well and the conversation Jesus had with her about living water versus the water she had come to draw from the well in Samaria.  

The world has her counterfeits. The world offers us a drink from her well; promising that it will satisfy our longings.  But it never does – and it never will!

The children of Israel had times where they longed to see God work; to see God fulfill the promises He had made. They may have been wrong in some of their expectations about what that would be like, but at least they were not satisfied with their current condition. 

I wonder if we have lost our thirst?  Oh, not just our thirst – there are plenty of people dissatisfied with their current situation. I wonder if we’ve lost our thirst for God?!

Is it God you desire to satisfy your longings?  Is it God you want to have step in and take control?  Is it His will you want to replace your will?  Is it His way you want to replace your ways? Are they His thoughts you want instead of your thoughts?

Do you thirst for God?  Is He your desire? Or, are you still hoping something else, beside God, will meet your need?

We have a tendency to take the water for granted until we are thirsty. No wonder God sees fit to allow us to become thirsty – He wants us to want Him. Are you thirsty for God?

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Waiting

None of us really enjoy waiting. We want to get to the front of the line, then continue to move on. Yet, waiting is a part of life; a reminder that there are other people besides ourself also waiting for what they need at the front of the line. 

Waiting is necessary. If you stop waiting you have given up and nothing else is accomplished. So, we wait; patiently or impatiently – is up to us. 

Funny are the thoughts that go through our minds while we are waiting. That fear that you’ve been forgotten and you’ll not be called is probably at the top of that list. “Do I remind them that I am still waiting? Or will that only cause more delay or less favor when I do get to the front of the line?”

Then there are what always seem to be those who have been waiting for less time but get ahead of you. This of course only feeds the fear that you’ve been overlooked. 

Patience eventually pays off and the mission will be accomplished. We just learn to accept we are at the mercy of others. 

This is the Christian life. There is a mission.  We are in a constant process that requires waiting. We move along and wait again. We are at the mercy of Someone – and He has not forgotten.  His will will be accomplished in His timing, not ours.  So, wait. When seems others are going ahead of you, trust in Him Who does all things well. 

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Oh, That Was Unexpected. 

I am not complaining, per se, but maybe just a little bit. But in all sincerity, I am “ok” with it.   Do you ever feel like you’ve done everything you were supposed to do, even anticipating what could be needed even though it is not stated, only to find out that it was not enough?

Welcome to the life of a missionary and working with a foreign government in order to remain a “guest” in their country. 

As a missionary, we have the privilege (tongue in cheek) of taking multiple trips each year to extend our visas – the permission to live and work in our host country.  This year, in fact at this moment, we are going through the process once again.  We’ve done this before, several times already. 

Each time we go through the process we do our best to remember what we had to do the previous time (things that were not necessarily spelled out in the instructions).  We over prepare, anticipating (because of experience) things we might be asked to produce such as extra photocopies of documents, etc. 

We approach the window with everything in hand, hoping that this year they will find everything in order, organized just the way they want it (like they reorganized it the year before) – nothing impresses them, in fact, if you were cynical you might think that they are not allowed to let you get it right the first time. 

This year has had some new caveats. And now I find myself at the airport, taking an unanticipated flight to Manila to care for something that as of last month can no longer be done in Cebu.  Last minute, my wife is overnighting documents just in case the scans I have are not sufficient.   Is it frustrating? Yes. Is it expensive? Yes. Am I having fun? No. Am I really complaining?  No.  To be honest, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected and to have life interrupted in order to continue the life we are called to. 

I find it humorous actually. Maybe that is the secret, not to allow yourself to become so prideful that inconveniences ruin your day. To learn not to expect everything to line up for you, no matter how much you try. 

As I reflect on it, is it not the repeating story of history?  As we read the pages of the Bible, don’t we find twists and turns?  Isn’t that what makes books and movies so captivating to people?  Unexpected events keep the plot interesting. The excitement is in seeing how they work through it, overcome it, etc. 

Maybe if we viewed our lives as playing a leading role in a movie directed by God it wouldn’t bother us so much.  If we thought that history will provide the fans who will watch how we handled the circumstances of life and look forward to the next chapter. 

All I know is, for all of the “trouble” we’ve gone through, a whole lot of good has taken place!  Not sure what would have been different without the twists and turns, but I’m not sure I would want to change the script to find out.   All I know is that the story is not over yet. God is good and His story will have a happy ending. 

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Being Profitable For The Ministry

For someone or something to be profitable, its “use” must add to, not take away from; it helps does not hinder; increases, does not diminish. 

When Paul, in his final days, was writing to Timothy, he included these words in the middle of his instructions:

“Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” – 2 Timothy 4:11

This is the same Mark (John Mark) who at one time Paul believed was unprofitable for the ministry. He had turned back on their first missionary journey and Paul was unwilling to take him on their second.  But now, Mark is considered profitable to Paul for the ministry. What hope for those who have made mistakes – that someone who has been unprofitable can become profitable. 

In this passage we can deduct some of the things that make someone profitable for the ministry:

1. He is diligent. 

“Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me:” – 2 Timothy 4:9

Someone who is diligent gets his work done with care.  For the diligent, every job is made important. For the diligent, he doesn’t determine if a job is important by looking at the job, but by the honor of being trusted with the job. 

2. He loves the one he serves more than the world. 

“For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.” – 2 Timothy 4:10

A profitable for the ministry person is more interested in being profitable than being profited.  When serving Paul was not providing the things that Demas, and others, had their eyes on, they left off serving. 

3. He is there when he is needed. 

When Paul needed these men, they were not there. The profitable for the ministry person is the one who is “available” when he is needed.

Do you find ways? Or, do you make excuses?

4. He goes where he is sent. 

Not everyone who was away from Paul at the moment had forsaken him. 

“And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus.” – 2 Timothy 4:12

Sometimes it is is necessary to be used outside your normal routine; to be called to something that requires more than you normally do. 

Tychicus was profitable to Paul because he could be trusted to work without supervision.

5. He is responsible with what is trusted to him. 

“The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.” – 2 Timothy 4:13

The profitable for the ministry person will care for the things that are not his own. He is able to deliver what was delivered to him in the same or better fashion than he received it. 

Taking personal responsibility is holding yourself accountable for what you’ve been trusted with. 

6. He stands with his leader in tough times. 

“Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works:  Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words.  At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.” – 2 Timothy 4:14-16

Paul faced incredible opposition from the idol maker. Paul was spoken against and it had become an unfashionable thing to stand with Paul or be associated with Paul.  

However, Paul was certain of one thing:

“Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.” – 2 Timothy 4:17

The Lord stood with Paul. It’s a shame that those men who forsook Paul were not standing where the Lord was standing. 

Let us be there for better and for worse. Let us be standing not only when the weather is good, or when the weather has improved, but be there throughout the storm. 

Are you profitable for the ministry? If not, you can be!  Has someone been unprofitable to you for the ministry? Give them opportunity and time to change – be willing to accept that they could become profitable once again. 

One thing is for certain, to be profitable is to be used; be willing to be used in the ministry. 

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Where Will Your Bones Be Buried?

“And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.  And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.” – Genesis 50:24-25

Joseph’s is a most fascinating life.  Loved by his father as a child but hated by his brothers.  Sold as a slave into the land of Egypt where he was cared for by God but falsely accused, imprisoned, and forgotten for a time.  Later, by God’s grace, Joseph is promoted by the Pharaoh of Egypt to an incredibly powerful position in the country and placed in charge of the agriculture and commerce.

During a time of great famine Jacob, Joseph’s father, sends his sons to Egypt to by corn in the only place that seems to have any.  Jacob’s sons go and stand before Joseph, although they did not recognize him.  Through the course of events, Joseph will reveal himself to his brothers and they will bow before him as he had dreamed many years prior.  Joseph will call for his father and the rest of the family to come to Egypt where he will be able to help supply for their needs.

When Jacob dies, Joseph asks permission from Pharaoh to go into Canaan to bury his father and not only is he granted permission but Pharaoh sends an entourage with him.  Joseph will return to Egypt along with his brothers, but they are afraid that he will take vengeance on them for selling him into slavery, now that their father is dead.  Joseph of course calms their fears, acknowledging that it was part of God’s plan for good.

Now Joseph is about to die, but before he does, he makes his brothers promise him something.  He believes that God will keep His promise to bring Israel out of Egypt some day.  He makes them to promise that when that day comes they will carry his bones out of Egypt with them.  It mattered to Joseph where he was buried.

What was the meaning of this request?  Why did it matter where Joseph was buried?

Joseph was making an incredible statement:

“I have lived most of my life in Egypt.”

“I speak the language of the Egyptians.”

“I have worked in the land of Egypt.”

“I have become wealthy in the land of Egypt.”

“I have had friends in Egypt.”

“I wear Egyptian made clothes.

“I eat the food provided in Egypt.”

But…

“I AM NOT AN EGYPTIAN!”

“I am a son of Jacob! I am an Hebrew.  I am one of God’s chosen people!”

My friend, we may live in this world, we may eat here, work here, and even sometimes play here, but we are not to be “of this world.”  We need to realize and make it clearly known, “this world is not my home.”

Joseph chose who he was associated with; the people he identified with.  You must make that choice also.  Where will your bones be buried?  Who do you belong with?  Which group of people are your people; those of this world, or the people of God?  It matters where your bones are buried!  Make the choice to be counted among the people of God.

 

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