Un-Expecting Expectations

fillintheblank.jpgDo you prefer fill-in-the-blanks or open-ended questions? Which would best describe the way you live out faith?

When we live out our faith with fill-in-the-blanks, we look for what we expect to fit. Sometimes we don’t even look at the context of the blank. We just know a blank is coming, and we sift through what’s coming into our lives to find what best fits. We know something must go there, and we don’t want it to be blank for long. We’d prefer the answers be handed to us on an answer key or shown on a large screen right in front of us. Fill-in-the-blank living can create a lazy interaction. Yes, we’re still engaged in doing something, but we’re jumping from one statement and blank to another, skimming what comes in between.

What if we lived out faith with open-ended questions that invite us to search? Open-ended questions aren’t as safe, because we can get off track without the structure of fill-in-the-blanks. We can easily meander down a rabbit trail or get distracted by a squirrel. Yet open-ended questions engage us. They invite us into experiences. As we learn through experiences, we apply what we learn. We feel a sense of ownership, because we’ve engaged in the process. We’re not just interacting with pen and paper; we’re interacting with the world around us. Open-ended questions lead to mistakes that seem a bit more significant than the fill-in-the-blank mess of crossing out a wrong answer. Just because we experience something doesn’t make our interpretation of what we experience or our perspective of what is accurate and what isn’t reflective of truth. The mistakes of open-ended questions can have lasting impacts, yet we continue to learn through those experiences when we’re seeking God’s truth over our own preferences and perspectives.

When we live by fill-in-the-blanks, we look for something specific. We expect something to fit, and when it doesn’t, we’re not sure what to do. When we live by open-ended questions, we explore what fits, and the answers we find through our experiences are richer and deeper.

Consider a few questions Jesus asked.

“Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:2)

Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why are you thinking evil thoughts?” (Matthew 9:4)

“Why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)

Knowing what they were talking about, Jesus asked them, “Why are you talking about not having bread? Your faith is small. (Matthew 16:8)

But knowing that these leaders were trying to trick him, Jesus said, “You hypocrites! Why are you trying to trap me?” (Matthew 22:18)

Jesus knew immediately what these teachers of the law were thinking. So he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things?” (Mark 2:8)

When Jesus turned and saw them following him, he asked, “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38)

Jesus had the answers before he asked the questions. He didn’t ask because he needed the answers. He asked because he wanted people to work through the answers. He wanted them to search for the answers, engaging in the experience of learning.

What kind of questions are you asking? The ones you can easily fill in the blank or the ones that take a bit more time, move you out of your comfort level, and sometimes create more confusion before creating clarity?

Engage in a relationship with God. You’ll find the answers you need.

Curiosity or Fault-Finding

discernThe Pharisees and Sadducees approached, and as a test, asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them: “When evening comes you say, ‘It will be good weather because the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘Today will be stormy because the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to read the appearance of the sky, but you can’t read the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” Then He left them and went away. (Matthew 16:1-4)

We need to be able to discern when people approach us with authentic curiosity and when they are only testing to find fault.

But notice how Jesus called them out. Here were people who were ready to recognize signs in nature, but look past the truth of Jesus right in front of them. That’s often the case today. People are willing to accept certain prophecies and signs and ideas that line up with their beliefs but can’t see truth in front of them. I suppose we’re all like that a bit. Our filters can get mixed up and clogged.

Hence, the need for discernment, which is sort of like keeping our filters clean and ready to sift through everything that comes our way.

 

The Pursuit

f64c4ac5c778d0defb9840823fbf0db6Just then, a woman who had suffered from bleeding for 12 years approached from behind and touched the tassel on His robe, for she said to herself, “If I can just touch His robe, I’ll be made well!” But Jesus turned and saw her. “Have courage, daughter,” He said. “Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that moment. (Matthew 9:20-22)

A women who was vulnerable, weak, and devastated from a chronic health condition pursued Jesus with strength and faith. She trusted Him and leaned forward toward Him. She reached with everything she had.

I think of her often as I pursue God. No matter how I feel, do I pursue Him with a similar strength and faith? Do I stretch with everything I have to reach Him?

Jesus responds to the woman with power and sensitivity. He encourages her.

He knows our pursuit and our faith, which encourages me. I can’t physically reach out and touch Him, but I can reach Him. And He responds with power and sensitivity. Every single time.

A Reminder for Today

PrintThe following is a powerful reminder and promise for today. Sometimes the truth is difficult to seek, hear, sift through, and incorporate into our lives.

Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us.
We hope for light, but there is darkness; for brightness, but we live in the night.
We grope along a wall like the blind; we grope like those without eyes.
We stumble at noon as though it were twilight; we are like the dead among those who are healthy.
We all growl like bears and moan like doves.
We hope for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us.
For our transgressions have multiplied before You, and our sins testify against us.
For our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities:
transgression and deception against the Lordturning away from following our God,
speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering lying words from the heart.
Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far off.
For truth has stumbled in the public square, and honesty cannot enter.
Truth is missing, and whoever turns from evil is plundered.

The Lord saw that there was no justice, and He was offended.
He saw that there was no man—He was amazed that there was no one interceding;
so His own arm brought salvation, and His own righteousness supported Him.
He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head;
He put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and He wrapped Himself in zeal as in a cloak. (Isaiah 59:9-17)

I’m thankful for Truth, not the idea, but the person.

Celebrating Dad’s Life

A year ago, I spoke at my dad’s celebration of life.

It was one of the most difficult and easiest things I’ve done. Difficult, because I had to choose what to say. Easy, because I had a lot of options to choose from. Difficult, because I didn’t know if I could emotionally get through it. Easy, because I knew Dad would want me to speak.

I woke up that morning with two thoughts:

“It’s not everyday I get to speak about my dad’s life.”

And “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

I realized I was wrong about the first thought. Yes, I’d only get one chance to speak about my dad’s life here on earth, but I get to speak about my heavenly Dad’s life every single day. And what I needed to say that day had to do with both. I had to honor both. I didn’t need to make it more spiritual or create a sermon. It needed to be authentic with doses of hope and laughter. I realized the words I’d say were way less important than the reasons I said them.

I couldn’t say them in my own wisdom or strength.

My dad had given me all the wisdom and strength he could while he was living. I still carry it with me.

And God continues to give me the wisdom and strength I need for every day and every situation.

On that day, I stood at the intersection where all that wisdom and strength collided.

What I said wasn’t perfect. Others could have done a better job. But that’s okay with me.

I celebrated dad’s life with the people who loved him the most. And as I looked at some of the faces in the church that day, I saw God’s love for me in the faces of people who love me. And I felt comfortably weak, because He is strong.

 

Worship Today: Light of the World

The world waits for a miracle
The heart longs for a little bit of hope
Oh come, Oh come Emmanuel

The child prays for peace on earth
And she’s calling out from a sea of hurt
Oh come, Oh come Emmanuel

And can you hear
The angels singing

Glory to the light of the world
Glory the light of the world is here