Anticipation

I remember as a kid one of the TV commercials that stuck in my head was for Heine’s Ketsup, yes …“Anticipation”. The idea was that the ketsup was so thick and tasty that we all stood around patiently, in anticipation, for it to finally make its appearance. It took a while, but once it did—wow, everyone was happy and had a celebration!

We anticipate many things in life: graduation, beginning a new job, crossing the finish line of a race, and retirement to name a few. The thing about anticipation is that it requires action for the event anticipated to become a reality. You do not graduate if you do not study; you do not get the new job if you have not developed the necessary skills; you must train to cross the finish line; retirement will not be enjoyable if you have not properly prepared.

My youngest daughter has brought my wife and me (and many others) to a time of great anticipation; although ours does not compare to her or her husband’s as they anticipate the birth of Tristan. I promise you that during the past nine or so months there has been a lot of preparation in the anticipation of welcoming this child! A nursery was made with lots of love; diapers have been inventoried and organized by size; showers have been thrown; medical and health issues have been addressed; their dog has been acclimated to the idea that he will have to share; many other areas have been focused on all in anticipation. And now…the time is near!

I was recently studying the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. God gave Moses and Aaron specific instructions for them to pass on to His people. Among those instructions were how they were to prepare a very special meal and then in Exodus 12:11 He tells them, “In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’S Passover.”

I can only imagine the anticipation the people must have experienced when they heard these instructions. You see they wore long loose garments and the only time they would tighten them up with a belt was when they traveled, also they would not wear sandals in their homes during a meal—the only time they would wear them is when they traveled. And the staff (unless you were a shepherd) was for…you got it—traveling. Being told to dress for travel and to eat in haste indicated to them they were leaving captivity and leaving soon—they ate that Passover Meal with great anticipation and they were prepared!

We need to have more anticipation for what God wants to do in our lives, but with that anticipation comes our obligation to prepare. How do we prepare you might ask? Well I believe prayer is the first step; ask God what He wants to do in our lives and then “listen” for the answer. Reading the Bible is helpful—I have found that no matter what I am going through, He has the answer. Further, sharing our lives with other people often shows us we are not alone in our anticipation or even our concerns.

I also believe we can have great anticipation just by observing God’s glorious creation. Look at a blooming Mayflower Rose and remember it was once a seed. Look at a Giant Sequoia and remember it was once a sapling. Look at a magnificent Bald Eagle and remember it was once in an egg. Look at who you consider the world’s greatest athlete or most brilliant thinker and remember they were once a baby.

I look at my daughter’s first “baby bump” picture and with great anticipation and preparation look forward to holding my grandson and it will be a very happy celebration!

Knock off the Rust, and Trust

I like sports. Particularly I like football. Specifically, I like the Kansas City Chiefs. I like Chis Conley, a player for the Chiefs, who is a self-proclaimed “military brat” and a “lover of Christ” and a pretty good wide receiver.

Chris suffered a season-ending Achilles injury last year early in the season. Recently, in an interview concerning his rehabilitation and return to playing he talked about having to “trust his legs to make high-speed cuts” but that he had “knocked some of that rust off.” I look forward to seeing what Chris and his teammates do this season and optimistically have plans for a special Super Bowl Party!

But what Chris said about trusting his legs and knocking the rust off got me thinking. Don’t we all have to do that after setbacks? While I am nowhere in the league of a professional football player I have some goals that require physical training; I’m preparing for a marathon and have had some physical setbacks. As I recovered from these I found that the “rust” that needed knocked off is mental and emotional more than physical. “The hamstring feels strong…but will it give out if I push it and if it does, will I even be able to go to work on Monday that is necessary to provide for my family?” That is fear.

We must knock off the rust, and trust!

Satan likes it when we live in fear, particularly when a follower of Christ fears sharing their faith. He probably gets over “losing” one, but he does not want that one to share the truth with others because then he “loses” many.

Jesus teaches us to knock off the rust, and trust. Here is what He says in Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

To keep this in context, the disciples had recently observed the crucifixion of the One they were following, but more importantly witnessed His resurrection—His defeat over death! As Jesus Christ ascended to His rightful place in Heaven He told them, and us, to knock off the rust, and trust!

When we share the Gospel it does not always take immediately with people.  That is not our sign to quit–if we do, that is fear that is covered with rust and shows a lack of trust.  It’s not easy–but nothing worth obtaining rarely is.  The bottom line is we are commanded to “go” and “teach”, both of which are action verbs.

We cannot “go” with rust, we cannot “teach” without trust!

Naïve Faith?

This week I was looking at a planter pot that I put a variety of wild seeds in this Spring. There is a tall plant growing out of it that looks like it might have the potential to add some nice variety to our landscape. My wife and I have had a friendly debate on whether it is a “flower” or a “weed”. I started the project so I’m not willing to give up just yet—so that tells you who is on what side.

Well, I decided I was going to do what we do when we need information in our current society—I Googled it. I thought what I typed as a search phrase was pretty simple and straight forward “How to tell if a plant in a pot is a flower or weed?”

If any of you reading this live in areas where marijuana is legal, let me know—I got a bazillion references for you! My problem was I could not understand why Google suggested sites about growing cannabis based on my search phrase. Then it dawned on me, two words were triggers: “pot” and “weed”. As I was researching what I was looking for I was naïve.

The Oxford Dictionary describes “naïve” as “showing a lack of experience, wisdom, or judgement.” I have never used marijuana so for this subject I have no experience or wisdom and my judgement was just to never use it.

That got me thinking about faith, specifically is Christianity a naïve faith? Some who do not share this belief have claimed that only the naïve would believe the story of Jesus Christ. That of course is a personal decision each individual has to make and then be willing to live and die with.

Numbers sometimes give us amazing insight. I want to share part of chart I came up with while in seminary. It looks at some ancient writings, as in who wrote it, believed date written, time span between the original and the earliest copy, and the number of copies in existence today.

Author                               Date Written           Time Span            Number of Copies
Plato                                   427-347 B.C.            1,200 years                            7
Demosthenes                     4th Century B.C.       800 years                              8
Suetonius                           A.D. 75-160              1,300 years                           8
Caesar                               100-44 B.C.                1,000 years                         10
Homer (Iliad)                     900 B.C.                     500 years                          643
New Testament Writers    A.D. 50-100               Less than 100 years       5,686

Scholars give the Iliad a 98% accuracy rating for the 643 copies, so I’ll agree that what we have today is pretty much what Homer wrote. The New Testament has a 98.5% accuracy rating for those 5,686 copies

Hebrews 4:12-14 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.”

With the facts and the convicting words found in the New Testament I feel confident having experience, wisdom, and judgement in my faith!

 

The Old-Fashioned Way

We Americans spend 40 – 50 billion dollars a year on fitness: gym memberships, equipment, special shoes and clothing, supplements, etc. I am part of that consumer base and am a strong advocate for physical fitness—it is a critical part of our whole being.

This past week was particularly physically challenging at my job. One day I drug around a connection of three 100-foot industrial hoses while power washing the entire building in 95-degree weather (no sympathy from firefighters) and on another day I amassed over 22,000 steps primarily up and down a ladder and the air conditioner was not working (no sympathy from linesmen).

However, I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m sharing to make a point. I exercise regularly—so I feel pretty good physically. But these work tasks wore me out big time! And there were no technological innovations available to make the work easier.

It got me thinking about how our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.…planned their exercise schedule? Their life was their exercise schedule! They didn’t need a gym—they had their farm or factory. They didn’t need the newest Nike—they had their boots. They didn’t need the newest gadget—they adapted what they had to what they needed. They exercised the “old-fashioned” way.

Yes, times have changed—for good and bad—and there is certainly nothing wrong with the innovations we have that enhance the various aspects of our lives, even our spiritual growth. At church this morning when the Pastor asked us to go to a certain Scripture I opened the Bible app on my smart phone. However, when I am here on at my home office writing this blog or working on other projects I prefer 3 or 4 open paper Bible versions along with some commentaries of theologians I trust and respect—the “old-fashioned” way.

It amazes me how our world has changed in my 50+ years or even during the years of my children. I cannot even imagine what my grandchildren will experience when they are my age. The way we work, the way we exercise, the way we learn, even the way we “church” has changed dramatically and will continue to change.

So, what are we to take from this inevitability of change? Well one thing I know is that we cannot hide from change. So, the bigger question is how do we approach change? Do we blindly accept the good and bad and let the results fall as they may or do we just long for the “old-fashioned” way of life?

I believe Paul give us sage advice in 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 where he writes, “Test everything; hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” This advice has applied to all generations for over 2,000 years and continues to be the truth until the end of our time. Contrary to an argument made by many, following the Word of God is not the “old-fashioned” way. God is timeless; therefore, His Word is timeless. Often, the difficulty for us is that this applies even when we do not understand or want to agree with His Word.

Despite our technology and despite our advancements we must ultimately answer one question. Who is the better authority on what is good and what is evil: me or the Creator of the Universe? Or even simpler, who is “old-fashioned” me or God?