Life’s A Coin Being Tossed

“Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.  But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” – Job 2:9-10

Struggles and blessings are two sides of the same coin. Have you met anybody who does not have some sort of struggle they are going through?  Have you met anybody who is not in some way being blessed?

We tend to talk about whichever side of the coin we are looking at. We describe what we are seeing, not what we are not seeing. 

To pretend we have no problems or struggles in life is to ignore that the coin has another side to it. However, to talk as if all you have is trouble in life, is to likewise ignore that your life has another side to it. 

But if it is true for us, it is true for others. When we hear someone speak of their troubles – let us not forget they are also blessed (even if they are not focused on it).  And when we hear someone speak of their blessings, let us not think that they have a trouble-free life. 

“Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.  Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” – Romans 12:14-15

Allow those who are looking upon the blessings to have that time to rejoice, and rejoice with them. Allow those who are feeling the struggles to weep, and suffer with them for awhile.  

“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” – Ecclesiastes 9:11

Let’s be patient with each other, because we don’t always call the coin toss the way the coin happens to land at any given time. Sometimes it’s heads, sometimes it’s tails – but having Jesus Chrsit as our Saviour – we never lose!

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Until We See Him

For more than a week I’ve been away from my family, taking care of immigration paperwork mostly, but also getting to visit with good friends.  I had a scheduled flight to go home yesterday, but another unexpected twist has pushed the trip home to today. 

I look forward to seeing my family and they look forward to my being home.  I’m not bringing them to a place I have been preparing for them. I’m going to the place they’ve been waiting for me. 

As believers, however, we are waiting for Jesus to come; not to a place we are preparing for Him (He’s preparing a place for us), but to a people prepared for Him. 

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” – 2 Timothy 4:7-8

Paul spoke of a reward he expected to receive because of how he fought and how he ran his race. But this reward was not only for him; it is a reward available to all who fight or run well. The expectation is that if you “love His appearing” then you will run well until you see Him. 

I suppose the questions each of us must ask are, “Do I love Him to the degree that I love that He is coming?” “How am I going to show Him that I’ve been anticipating (looking forward to) His return?”

Have you ever gone to get somebody, and even though they knew what time you were coming, they waited to get ready until you arrived?  It’s frustrating and disappointing that someone who knows you’re coming doesn’t seem to care enough to get ready “before” you arrive. 

My fiend, we know that Jesus is coming, but we don’t know when. Yet, we should be ready for His arrival which triggers our immediate departure. This tells me that if we love His appearing we should spend our time doing the things that matter for where we are going, not so much for where we are staying now. 

Remember, we are not taking a vacation with Jesus. We are not returning to this place, we are getting ready to vacate this place. Be ready to go at any moment!  He is coming for us. We will see Him soon. 

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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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