Expectations

“What do you want from me?” A phrase often uttered in anger between two people in a relationship. When I speak to Boards or Councils about their relationship with their CEO or when I coach supervisors, I always discuss setting expectations. If they do this often enough, they will prevent disappointment by both parties, and it will allow people to function without constant direction. Telling people what you expect of them is often the best way to meet your shared goals. My wife often says, “I can’t read your mind!” This is another form of missed expectations. I’ve written before about what we call the “order model” in emergency communications. Instead of just saying “copy” when given an order over the radio, the model requires that the message be repeated back to the sender to ensure complete understanding. It works well in high stress situations. The problem with low stress communications, the ones we have 99% of the time in our lives, is that it often misses the mark. 

How many times have you spend time in what feels like a circular conversation before you finally realize what you both of you are actually talking about? Usually both people assume they know but when they start asking questions, they realize that they aren’t at all on the same page. The order model would have helped but it sure would make for a long conversation. The bottom line is that we all need to work on explaining what we want or what we need no matter what role we are playing in our lives – spouse, child, co-worker, supervisor, employee, neighbor, etc. If you find yourself wanting to ask someone, “what do you want from me?” remember that you are half to blame for not knowing the answer. Be humble, be courteous and be direct in your exchange of needs. The results will be peaceful.

“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

When I read the Old Testament, I am amazed by how simply things were being explained to God’s children. I guess It’s easy to think it simply because we know how the story ends. We know that God sent His Son to die for our sins and that we have been forgiven of our sins because of God’s grace. The readers of Micah did not. They ask, “What does the Lord require of you?” We all know the answer to that question – now. The readers at the time had no idea. I could close here by simply saying, “We know what the Lord requires, faith in Jesus as our Savior.” Too easy, right?

The wisdom that follows the question in Micah is what we should be concentrating on. “Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God”. Now there is some good advice! In today’s world we hear little about mercy, we hear little about humility and we rarely see people acting justly. At this moment in time, the U.S. is ideologically more divided than ever and things like humility and mercy are left for the “snowflakes”. I’m not taking shots at the left or the right in the U.S. political debate; I’m simply saying that the words of Micah should be very meaningful right now as way forward in our quest of unity and healing. 

Good Disciples

“If you hold to my teachings you are already my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31b-32.

I know what you’re thinking; this is not how he usually writes these! Scripture first? I needed to mix things up a little this week.

What did Jesus mean when he said “you are already my disciples”? What is a disciple anyway? A disciple is someone who is a follower; someone who believes and helps spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Jesus told us that if we “hold to my teachings” we are already His disciples. Holding to His teachings is Jesus’ way of telling us to grow in our faith so that we can overcome the pressures and troubles that we face every day in our lives. The Holy Spirit is in us and we should be in the Word every day; studying it, praying over it and obeying it. 

According to Scripture, being a Christian disciple means that we should do these things: 

  1.  Our attention should be on our Lord and pleasing Him in every thing that we do. You can ask yourself, would Jesus like me to say this, do that or think those thoughts about someone? 
  2.  Jesus was the perfect example for us to follow because He lived His life perfectly. 
  3.  Our job is to believe in Jesus Christ, and if we do, the Holy Spirit will produce the fruit in us. This fruit will bring change to our lives as we grow closer to God our Father. We’ll have better thoughts, words and actions that will make Jesus smile. 
  4.  We are told to love our neighbors as ourselves. Love is all about actions. We should be thinking more about other people than we do about ourselves. 
  5.  We are to share our faith and tell nonbelievers about the wonderful changes Jesus Christ has made in our lives. Sometimes we think that we can’t do it or that we might say the wrong thing. Remember, you have the fruit of the Holy Spirit growing in you and it makes a big difference. 

This is the time of year that people are open to hearing about Jesus. Have you considered bringing your family or a friend to church with you? Think of it like when they come, they get a little bit of God on them each time. The more times they come, the more of God and the Holy Spirit they get on them and the closer they grow to God. Shouldn’t everyone be covered in the love of God? The last line of our verse is “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” We know the good news of our savior Jesus Christ. We are free from sin because Jesus took them all to the cross with Him. We will have eternal life because of our faith in Him. We are free in the truth of Jesus Christ and our job, no matter how old we are, is to be good disciples and make disciples of others. Try to get everyone you know covered in God!

Hope and Compassion

I have to admit that I waited until yesterday afternoon to finish this week’s devotion. I was waiting for the election results. I had intended to right about hope and compassion this week regardless of the outcome, I just had two completely opposite openings to navigate. Then, while I sat down to write, I changed my perspective. For some people, Presidential Elections represent either hope or despair and no other options. Presidents come and go but it is the spirit of America that keeps us moving forward through this life. The outcome of local elections affects our lives far more than who the President is; we drive the streets and use the parks of our cities and towns every day. I can’t forget about the quality of our public safety services that are impacted by decisions made at the local level. If hope is on your mind today because of the election (either lack of or more of) then I challenge you to think deeper about the word hope.

Compassion on the other hand should always be on your mind. How can we care for each other or love thy neighbor without compassion? We care for our kids and our parents because we have compassion. I think that as a society, we are about to learn how important compassion is in the coming months. As the pandemic surges worldwide and the global economy remains bloody, thousands of people will begin the eviction process because they have not been working and have been unable to pay the rent. What will happen to them? Will they find hope and compassion? 

Love thy neighbor is a powerful challenge. I believe that most parents will always be there for their kids and that their compassion for their kids will never fail. Hope and compassion can be found in almost everything we do. Hope is found in the love of our Heavenly Father who also shows us that His compassions will never fail. Look around your life and you too will see God’s love all around you; and that should give you hope this week. 

21Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23

The United States elected its next President this past week – ALL WEEK long. The world has been watching our unique democratic system in action for more than a year. If you are reading this and live outside of the US, be thankful! For the rest of us, we’ve been suffering through one of the most painful election cycles in modern times. Many people are excited about the outcome and many are not. Some may not even stop after the votes have been counted. Please pray for us!

There are people in our lives who have struggles each day. A sick loved one, a family member who has passed, or other problems that can overwhelm us as individuals. It is easy to lose hope and get lost in despair. Take comfort in the verse today “therefore I have hope: 22Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” God’s compassions never fail! As humans, we want our answers or our solutions right now. We tell ourselves that we don’t have time to wait and can’t understand why God doesn’t get that. We are being reminded that God’s compassions are “new every morning”. So, no matter what the outcome of the election is or what the test results say or what happens in our lives; we will not be consumed! God loves each and every one of us. Go forth this week in peace.

Why Bother?

“Why do I even bother?” It seems that I’m asking myself this question a lot these days. Why vote? Why speak up? Why do I care? Does my opinion really matter? We all ask ourselves these questions from time to time. I wish I had an answer to why we ask them. It seems to me that we are programmed to care about many of things in this world, even the things that have no direct impact on us. I suppose this is where compassion lives – we care. When we care, it matters to us. Our ability to influence the outcome is another story altogether but we still care and can get frustrated when we try to help and get no response. We’ll vote in the elections tomorrow and if our candidate isn’t elected, we’ll get frustrated and say, “Why bother?” 

Imagine for a moment though, no one cared. If it didn’t immediately affect them, they ignored it. People being directly affected by discrimination started civil rights movements but it was people who cared enough to help that made a difference. You can see where change has taken place across the planet and there were always people willing to do something to make that change possible. This door swings both ways – good and evil are accomplished by people willing to take action. The good news is that the good has far out numbered the evil. So what motivates you? Perhaps it’s music or reading or maybe even a special person. Knowing what it is will help and then keep it close to you when doubt creeps in. Staying positive is often easier said than done but you never know when or if you will be someone else’s inspiration. 

16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I can’t even begin to imagine if God had given up on us. We were terrible children who won’t or couldn’t obey His simple commands and requests. We grew impatient waiting, we ignored Him and when He did send us a savior, we turned away and then killed Him. But God was patient and knew us better than we knew ourselves. He let His plan unfold and now there are millions of Christians in this world and millions more now have eternal life because of Jesus. We are encouraged because we have faith in the Word of God.

We often hear that we should be looking for the silver lining in everything. Honestly, it is hard to find good in so much of the bad that is going on in this world. God tells us to encourage our hearts and be strengthened in good deed and word. The best place to find these is in the bible. We will never know the real purpose of him but we know the real promises of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. The devil does bad things to get us to turn away from God and our best defense against evil is turning toward God. Seek Him in everything and you will find encouragement and strength.