Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Book of Job: Chapters 8-10

Dear Friends, Family and Fellow Students,

We had a meaningful discussion again today in our class on Job, dealing with Job's dialogue with his second friend and comforter, Bildad.

Bildad's thesis and his comfort to Job was that all God's ways are just. His foundation was the historical teaching of double retribution (good people are rewarded and bad people are punished) and that God never perverts justice. As one commentator put it, he champions that "old-time religion". The truth is, God does not pervert justice, so Bildad was right on this point. However, he applied this iron-clad truth at the wrong time and in the wrong way to his friend, Job, who was suffering under no apparent cause of his own sin. Although neither Job nor Bildad know this for sure, the reader does because we are privy to the prologue of the book and God's conversation with the Satan.

Unfortunately, Bildad becomes a sorry counselor and accuses Job of being a "windbag" and ends up wearing that label quite well himself. Worse yet, he tries to get Job to repent and deny his own integrity so that he will get blessings from God. This is exactly what the Satan wants, and what he indicated Job would do when suffering struck him hard, thereby proving that people only serve God for the good things that God gives them and not for who God is.

While Job goes through more lamenting, and he begins to question God's justice, he does so as a believer in God and one who continues to seek him with integrity. He even ponders the possibility of going to court with the Almighty, but quickly realizes that such legal dreams would end in disaster. . .who can call God to account, and who can defend themselves when the Creator of the Universe is your accuser? Ultimately, Job becomes despondent again and wishes he had never been born.

I like what Hartley has to say in his exposition of chapters 9 and 10 when Job is begging for a legal audience with God: "Job does not question God's right to punish him, but he thinks that God must try him officially before acting with such hostility against one who has been faithful. Ignorant of God's purpose, Job imagines that God is acting capriciously. If Job had knowledge of the proceedings of heaven recorded in the prologue, the trial would be easier for him to bear. In fact he would most likely have willingly accepted the test in order to vindicate God's trust in him. But for his testing to be as severe as possible Job must be unaware of God's confidence, for trust in God is tested to the ultimate when circumstantial evidence calls into question the integrity of one's devotion to God. God's silence intensifies a person's testing far more than physical and emotional pain."

Many of us have faced trials where our limited understanding leaves us groping for answers. The death of a child, a terminal illness, the loss of hope in a close relationship, the unfaithfulness of a spouse, protracted unemployment - all these can cause us to ask God some tough questions. We may be tempted to lose hope, even lose our faith in God.

In these moments, we must hold on to the truth that God is both good and sovereign; he does not pervert justice nor is he dis-engaged from our lives. We need to recognize, as Job did in 23:10, "But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold."

I think the apostle Peter may have had his Jewish wisdom literature open to Job 23:10 when he penned: "In this (our birth into God's family through Christ's resurrection) you rejoice though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." I Peter 6,7

Job looked outward for an "arbiter/mediator" between himself and the Almighty in chapter 9. He also recognized his need for a "deliverer" to free him from his oppression in chapter 10. We know that Job's hopes were not in vain, even if they were ulitimately fulfilled after his life time. We have lived to see the fulfillment of these yearnings in the person of Jesus Christ, who as a type of Job, suffered innocently with a purpose to be that mediator and deliverer to all who would come to him.

In Christ alone,


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Book of Job Chapters 4-7: The Dialogue Begins!

Dear Friends, Family and Fellow Students,

Here is the class outline from last week. I am still trying to get the audio files uploaded - they are a little too large right now. Next week we will be studying the Bildad/Job dialogue.

September 12, 2010

The Book of Job

Chapters 4-7: The Dialogue Begins! (Eliphaz and Job)

Class Outline:
• Discuss Joni Eareckson Tada’s Article: “Hope – The Best of Things”
-Parallels to Job’s plight?
-Joni’s focus in re-gaining hope
• Chapters 4-7: Eliphaz and Job
• -Read aloud
• -Divide into teams/take sides
• -Key messages from dialogue
• Wrap up: Is there hope for Job? If so, where or in whom?

Key Themes:


• Starts by comforting Job, wanting a richer relationship for him with God.
• All creation is sinful, even if he cannot see specific sin in Job. Therefore, he should repent.
• Emphasizes the doctrine of retribution because he is fearful that Job’s attitude will bring on more calamities.
• Without realizing it, he is beseeching Job to fall into Satan’s trap, and prove that he serves God’s for the benefits that piety brings.
• His error is not strictly in his doctrine, but in his specific counsel – He tempts Job to seek God for personal gain, not for God himself.


• Defends his curse-lament from chapter 3 and charges his counselors to be failing to live up to their responsibilities toward him.
• He suggests that Eliphaz’ counsel has been too general and indirect for it is founded on the premise that suffering and sin are inextricably bound together, the premise that Job cannot accept in his own case.
• Job decides to argue with God and thereby takes his first steps on the path that will lead him to seek a resolution to his misery in an encounter with God himself.
• His mood becomes less caustic than in Chapter 3 as he begins to ponder the possibility of relief.
• In the retributive justice framework that he uses, Job accuses God of being too harsh with him.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Job 3: The Cry of an Anguished Man

Dear Friends, Family and Fellow Students,

Here is the outline and themes for tomorrow's class:

September 5, 2010

Job 3: Job's Curse and Lament

Class Outline:

1. Questions from Prologue or Propositions (10)
2. Review 2:1-13 (10)
3. Chapter 3 Verse-by-Verse (30)
4. Close with Devotion (5)

Themes from Chapter 3

1. Unexplained evil or innocent suffering cause us to ask "Why", due to our sense of justice and our limited knowledge, and our need for relief. Job shocks us and his friends in Chapter 3 with his harsh words and curse upon his own birth and lament of his own life.
2. Profound suffering and loss can drive us into deep despair, even to the point of wishing we did not exist.
3. When we suffer greatly, we enter the common plight of others who share in suffering.
4. Although Job does not curse God, he comes close in wishing he were dead by calling down incantations against his day of birth and moment of conception.
5. Job's curse-lament sets the stage for the following dialogue with his friends as they try to comfort and correct Job in his despondent state.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Job 1:1-2:13 The Prologue

Dear Friends, Family and Fellow Students,

Here are four themes from the prologue of Job and also four questions to reflect on:

Key Themes from the Prologue of Job:
1. Job is a man of character and righteousness – a priest to his family (vs. 1-5)
2. God is an absolute sovereign, ruling over the sons of God (angels), the Satan and evil, mankind and his suffering. (vs. 6-10)
• Does man serve (or invent) God just to receive blessings from him?
• Or, does he serve God because he is really there and worthy of our worship?
• God delights in his servants . . .although . . .
• God allows suffering, struggle and testing in their lives as part of his redemptive plan.
• The Satan is a created, subordinate being.
• Satan moves in the lives of God’s servants through a variety of means: disaster, sinfulness of others, disease etc. (vs. 13-19)
3. Our right response to suffering should be both grief and worship. We should count/mourn the loss and look to the LORD for comfort and answers, because he is both good in his intentions towards us and in control of our every circumstance.
• God determines the exact extent of our suffering, sometimes allowing deeper suffering after we have passed through initial fires. (vs. 2:1-6)
4. Friends love at all times and brothers are made for adversity (see Prov. 17:17, 18:24) – their intentions can be right in the beginning, but their impact can be mixed. (vs. 11-13)

Discussion Questions:
1. How would you describe God's sovereignty from this passage?
2. How do God's sovereign actions functionally impact your life? What alternatives to God's sovereignty do we often turn to, both "Christian" and "non-Christian"?
3. How do you see Satan active in and around you today?
4. How is Job's response to calamity a model for us in suffering well?

Nine Lessons from the Book of Job

Dear Friends, Family and Fellow Students,

Here are the nine propositions I shared in the opening class last Sunday.

Summarizing main lessons from book of Job, utilizing D.A. Carson's book "How Long, O Lord?"
1. Not all Suffering is due to sin. Irrational evil and incoherent suffering do not fit into glib answers. The author rejects and mocks the notion of retributive, mathematically precise justice. Those who have not suffered may lean on the notion of retributive, symmetrical justice to provide themselves a sense of security. Therefore, beware of friends (and ourselves) who have a tight theology with no loose ends, where suffering is understood exclusively in terms of punishment or chastening with no category for innocent suffering - such a suggestion besmirches the integrity of God. Where there is little compassion, honest grief and empathy, even a defense of God can seem unbearably hard to swallow.
2. Suffering is part of the human condition. There is such a thing as innocent suffering, as demonstrated by the author's emphasis on Job's goodness. Given Job's situation, none of us should consider ourselves exempt from the possibility of disastrous loss.
3. Evil answers to the sovereign God. When dealing with human suffering, we must leave room for mystery which God allows to persist. Suffering falls within the sweep of God's sovereignty; therefore, all forms of dualism are rejected. Satan answers to God, and evil is not un-tethered. God's intent in the wager with Satan is to show that human beings can love God, fear God, and pursue righteousness without receiving a prompt reward. Satan's thesis, that all religious interest is grounded in self-interest, or worse, mercenary commitment, is thus shown to be false.
4. God wants honest followers who will trust him. God does not blame us if in our suffering we frankly vent our despair and confess our loss of hope, our sense of futility and our lamentations about life itself. We can wrestle with God; be indignant with him; challenge him to come before us and provide answers, but we must do so as believers. Though we are innocent, we should never charge God with injustice. Whatever else may be said about the problem of evil and suffering, the justice of God must be a given. The proper response to suffering-that-we cannot-fathom is faith and perseverance and avoiding bitterness. In light of Job 36:15-16, be patient because it is better to be a chastened saint than a carefree sinner.
5. We must learn to suffer well - it is acceptable to challenge God, but we must do so as believers. Job's response is self-justifying, full of hard questions, asserting his innocence - ultimately resting on the simplistic notion of retributive, mathematical justice, which eventually leads him to accuse God of injustice. However, Job's arguments must not be confused with atheism or theological double-talk. Job's speeches are the anguish of a man who knows God, who wants to know him better and who never once doubts the existence of God, who remains convinced, at bottom, of the justice of God - but who cannot make sense of these entrenched beliefs in light of his own experience. As far as he is concerned, confession of sin that he has not committed, just to satisfy his friends and perhaps win some sort of reprieve, would itself be sinful. His integrity is too important. In the end, Job's greatest sin may not be something he said or did before suffering started, but the rebellion he displayed in his suffering. The major difference between Job and his friends is not their underlying views of retribution, but their views of Job's guilt or innocence.
6. God’s ways are often mysterious to humans. God is greater than any mortal (33:12), meaning that God may well have some purposes and perspectives in mind of which we (and Job) know nothing. God speaks in revelation (33:15-18), dreams and visions, but also in the language of pain (33:19) as a chastening use of suffering that may be independent of some particular sin. Its purpose may be preventative - it can stop a person from slithering down a slope to destruction. God does not always answer our questions about evil and suffering, but he makes it unambiguously clear what answers are not acceptable in his universe. Misinterpretations of God's answer to Job have this in common: they assume that everything that takes place in God's universe ought to be explained to us. they assume that God owes us an explanation. They assume that God Almighty should be more interested in giving us explanations than in being worshipped and trusted.
7. Sin, suffering and Satan are all foes of God, but part of his redemptive plan for human kind. God wins the wager in the end. Job may utter words that darken God's counsel, but he does not lose his integrity or abandon his God. Is it therefore surprising that there should be full reconciliation between God and Job? The challenge to Satan is not a capricious game, nor is the outcome obscure. It is mysterious, deep and solemn. The wager is congruent with the biblical themes of God's concern for the salvation of the men and women as part of a larger cosmic struggle between God and Satan which the outcome is certain but the struggle is horrible. The book of Job has no interest in praising mystery without constraint. All biblical writers - this one included - insist that to fear the Lord ultimately leads to an abundant life. The book does not disown all forms of retribution; rather it disowns simplistic, mathematically precise and instant applications of the doctrine of retribution. It categorically rejects any formula that affirms that the righteous always prosper and the wicked are always destroyed.
8. Grace is God’s response to wayward, suffering servants. The blessings that Job experiences at the end are not rewards that he has earned by his faithfulness under suffering; rather they are the Lord's free gift. The epilogue is the OT equivalent to the NT's anticipation of the new heaven and new earth. No matter how happy the ending, nothing can remove the suffering itself.
9. The LORD is to be loved and worshiped for who he is, not for his blessings. Although they are trying to defend God, the three friends end up offering Job a temptation through the reductionist theology - to confess sins that weren't there in order to try to retrieve his prosperity. If Job had succumbed, it would have meant that Job cared more for prosperity than for his integrity or for the Lord himself - and the Lord would have lost his wager with Satan! Job would have been led away from God, being reduced to being yet another person interested in seeking God for merely personal gain.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Colorado and back

Here are a few pictures of my recent trip with my son, Zach, and my two good friends, Dan Egenolf and Todd Lucy.

We had a memorable time climbing Mt. Sneffels, fly fishing, mountain biking and four wheeling in SW Colorado.

It was our attempt to bring to reality the chorus from Tim McGraw's country and western hit "Live Like You Were Dying":

I went sky divin'
I went Rocky Mt. climbin'
I rode 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu-Man-Chu
And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness, I'd been denyin'
I hope some day that you will have the chance
To live like you were dyin'.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

expectations (5)

Dear Friends and Family,

Now summer seems to have flown by at the speed of light from the sun, heating up everything in sight as the triple digit heat index has lingered a little too long.

Last time I wrote, I indicated my father had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, but in fact, he has stage 4 lung cancer. It was quite a challenging time getting the right diagnosis and finally getting the right treatment - reminiscent of my odyssey last year.

After 2+ months of mis-diagnosis, the doctors finally determined that he had adeno-carcinoma of the lung and that it had spread to other organs and in his bones. Not good news.

He was started on a targeted biologic treatment while we awaited genetic tests to see if he was a prime candidate for this type of treatment. We have been thankful to learn that he has the best geno-type for the use of this drug, Tarceva.

After 4 weeks of treatment, the tumor in his lung had shrunk by two-thirds! Soli Deo Gloria!

Just today, about six weeks after treatment initiation, my dad went on a bike ride and spent two hours on his tractor mowing his pasture!! He likes to ride his bike and ride his tractor, so this was a good day physically, mentally, spiritually as dad's "rolling stock" got a work-out.

As you might imagine, it has been a challenging time for our family. As my oldest son said, "this seems like round two, dad" when he heard about his O'pa's cancer. But God has been faithful to us in providing my dad with healing and increasing strength.

I would like to thank many of you for your faithful prayers for my father. None of us sensed that the Lord was ready to take him home. While "to die might be gain", we are happy that he is here with us to "live for Christ" a while longer.

I am going to shift some of my attention in blogging from the power of expectations to a study on the Old Testament book of Job, which I plan to teach at our church this fall. My hope is to load up the lesson I prepare each week to share with others what we are learning about the character of God, the problem of evil and the purpose and nature of suffering in our lives.

Please join me in reading and studying this literary and theological gem of book. I am confident you will be glad you did.

In Christ alone,

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Power of Expectations (4) Family Transitions

Dear Friends and Family,

Spring has flown by like a migrating bird. School is out and we have a graduating senior, Zach, pictured on my blog. Like most parents, we are very proud of him and have high expectations for his future. He will be attending my alma mater, DePauw University, to study media and journalism.

We have all experienced the impact of leaving home and the various expectations associated with that big transition. I can remember leaving for college quite a few years ago and the excitement mixed with apprehension that accompanied the move. I am sure Zach is ready to move on, but at the same time wondering what lies around the corner. Godspeed to all those graduates. May they improve on the foundation their forebears have laid.

My parents are also in the midst of transition as they leave their home of thirty-one years in southern Indiana to move to Indianapolis. We are glad to have them moving closer to us and have positive expectations of what their proximity will bring. Leaving "home" is challenging for them because of so many memories stored up in a particular place. My dad is glad to be "downsizing" bringing fewer outdoor duties. While my mom's indoor duties will likely not diminish, there will be a few more good restaurants to sample here in Indy.

I have been reading and thinking quite a bit about expectations in the medical realm - the placebo effect, the power of the mind and attitude in healing. I hope to blog on this area soon. In that vein, please offer up a prayer for my father as he has recently been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and will require surgery. Having seen God's hand in very tangible ways in my life over the past year, we are confident in his plans for my dad - for healing, for restored health, for a vibrant and meaningful life.

I'll close with a quote from the great 19th century preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon from "Morning and Evening" (May 31 selection):

"What a great comfort to know that we have a great Physician who is both able and willing to heal us! Let us think of Him awhile tonight. His cures are very speedy - there is life in a look at Him; His cures are radical - He strikes at the centre of the disease; and hence, His cures are sure and certain. He never fails, and the disease never returns. There is no relapse where Christ heals; no fear that His patients should be merely patched up for a season, He makes new men of them; a new heart also does He give them, and a right spirit does He put within them."

In Christ alone,


Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Power of Expectations (3) Of Others

Dear Friends and Family,

This week marked my one year anniversary of going into the hospital. What a year! I and my family remain deeply grateful for the prayers and faithful friendship of so many people. God's goodness has been on tangible display through the actions of his family here on earth.

I have continued to reflect quite a lot on the power of expectations in our lives. As I share some thoughts on expectations of others, I recognize it will only scratch the surface, but I hope it will begin to frame the topic at a basic level.

My thesis is that our expectations of others are often mis-guided because they are self-oriented, not other-centered.

I believe we should rightly have expectations of others: spouses, children, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, subordinates, bosses, teammates, coaches, etc. As we all know, expectations play a pivotal role in the development of children; they impact the way a team or a business performs; they set the cadence for how relationships work. . .for good and for bad.

Having said that, our expectations are often passive, not deliberate or intentional. They often have a subtle, if not overt, self-orientation to them because we expect others to meet our needs, make our lives easier, do it our way. . .in short, meet OUR expectations. To be sure, when we are in positions of authority or responsibility, we have the right and even the obligation to set clear expectations for those in our charge. However, parents should not set expectations for their children for their own good, but for the sake of the children. We should set expectations of our students or players for their good, not for the teacher's or coach's. Business expectations should be for the good of the business and it's customers, not solely to make the boss look good. You get the basic point.

I think the corner stone in setting expectations for others is the golden rule: "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this sums up the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12

I don't believe that Jesus was stating that we should assume everyone else has our needs or our preferences, our dreams or our aspirations. No, he is asking us to do the hard work of finding out what their needs, preferences, dreams and goals are and then having expectations of them which are consistent with who they are and who they wish to become. How many counselors' offices are filled weekly with adults whose neuroses are the result of never living up to their parents' mis-guided and overwhelming expectations of their becoming a professional tennis player or a Harvard law school graduate or (fill in the blank)? How many of our inner-city poor continue to be trapped in poverty because no one believes they can do any better, and therefore persistently set low expectations for them or have no expectations of a different or a better life?

I think the apostle Paul re-stated Jesus' golden rule in his letter to the church he planted at Philippi: "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." Philippians 2:3,4

How often are our expectations of others driven by rivalry? The "comparison game" has a large and unhealthy influence on our expecatations of others and ourselves. How often are our expectations born out of conceit? We believe our way is the best way, so we project that on to others.

How would humility influence our expectations of others? By counting others more significant than ourselves, we will be characterized by believing the best about others, giving them the benefit of the doubt in difficult circumstances and always looking out for their good.

Another person's highest good could entail having tough and high expectations for them, like Jesus did of the rich, young man who thought he done everything required of him, but was possessed by his power, position and wealth. Jesus told him the one thing he lacked was to sell everything and give it to the poor. Wow! That's raising the bar . . . but with an eternal perspective, because Jesus knew these worldly things stood in the way of this rich "master of the universe" becoming the person God intended him to be. (see Matthew 19:16-30)

Maybe we need to ask more of others around us for their eternal sake and for the sake of Christ's kingdom here on earth.

Or maybe our expectations of others should change so that we move from demanding justice to showing mercy, or from letting something slide, to holding someone accountable. Jesus did this in John's account of the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Jesus called her self-righteous accusers to account by saying "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." This question, and some kind of drawing Jesus made in the ground, made the woman's would-be executioners disperse. To her, he said"Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? She answered "no one, Lord." And Jesus then said "neither do I condemn you; go and from now on sin no more." In a different context, my pastor recently referred to this type of action as "afflicting the comfortable" and "comforting the afflicted". . .in both cases for their good.

A quick diagnostic test we might all do at the end of the day would be to check our areas of disapointment with others and determine the root cause of that disappointment. Is it because of missed expectations? Were those expectations self-focused or other-focused? Were they for our good or the other person's good? God may use this exercise to expose the cold, hard fact that many of our expectations of others are focused on our comfort, our convenience, our needs, our wants, not the other person's highest good, not to mention the furthering of Christ's kingdom here on earth.

I don't know about you, but at times when I take a deep look at my own motives and expectations of others, I am counting on a strong measure of the same mercy Jesus showed the woman caught in sin as told in John 8.

In Christ alone,


Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Power of Expectations (2) "Of Self"

Dear Friends and Family,

I apologize for being delinquent in my postings. . . it has been a busy time getting back into the swing of things in this new year. I want to stay with the subject of "the power of expectations", focusing first on the expectations we have of our selves.

I am not going to turn to secular or academic sources initially, but wish to frame the discussion with two parables Jesus Christ told to his followers over 2000 years ago.

The first comes from the gospel of Luke, chapter 14:7-11. It is a parable of a wedding feast and sets an important boundary for us as we think about our own expectations. Here it is:

". . . When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give your place to this person,' and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Jesus provides the main lesson at the end, so we don't need to strain to find it: "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Said in a few other ways: don't honor yourself; don't self-promote; think and act in a way that is rightly connected to your position; have realistic, fact-based expectations.

The second parable is found in both Luke and Matthew's gospels in slightly different forms. I will quote from Matthew's version since it is more familiar. It is found in chapter 25:14-30 and is referred to often as the Parable of the Talents. Here is a selection:

"For it (the kingdom of heaven) will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. . . Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more. His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master'. . . He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ' Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' But his master answered him, 'You wicked and slothful servant!. . . You ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away."

Again, Jesus provides the principle at the end of the parable: "to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away". What can we derive from this parable in regard to expectations about self?

Here are a few interpretations that I believe are true to the text: be faithful with what has been given to you; recognize the "talents" you have been given and put them to good use; don't over-reach - deliver in a way commensurate with your resources; don't under-estimate what is expected of you or what you are capable of; don't "hide your talent".

As I think about establishing expectations for myself, I find these stories from Jesus provide some helpful boundaries. On one hand, we should not seek a place of honor or fame and should not be characterized by self-promotion. In other words, we should think rightly (humbly) about ourselves and our position.

On the other hand, we should be willing and ready to recognize what has been given to us when we are called on by the master to put our resources to use. We should rightly appraise our talents and resources, and be willing to act and deliver in a way commensurate with those skills and gifts.

In contrast to what much of modern culture teaches and holds up as the norm when dealing with expectations of self, Jesus seems to be teaching that we should be people who don't seek to be exalted, or to be promoting oneself to an ever-higher position. At the same time, we should be people who rightly appraise the talents and the resources we have been given and to put them to good use for our master.

So, a few questions for reflection: Are you and I characterized by taking a lower position and not seeking the place of honor? Are you and I known for being "faithful over a little"?

If the answer to both is "yes", then Jesus suggests we will be recognized, rewarded by being "set over much", and then "enter into the joy of our master." Just for contrast, I suggest you read the entire parables, because the alternatives are not so attractive. Then again, Jesus was never accused of mincing words. . .

In Christ alone,


Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Power of Expectations

Dear Friends and Family,

Happy New Year and New Decade! Many of you may be glad to turn the page on 2009. I know last year will be one that I will not soon forget. The impact of last year on me and my family will certainly endure for many years to come.

For some time I have been wanting to begin a series of posts on the "power of expectations". A number of experiences I have had over the past several years have caused me to think about the impact expectations have had on my own life and in the lives of others. Expectations impact so many areas of our daily lives:

-professional success or failure
-parenting/childhood development
-medicine and health
-performance in sports
-marriage and relationships
-faith and prayer
-stock market performance/economic indicators

Consider how expectations impact our views of ourselves, others, our circumstances, our past and our future. Our level of contentment is directly related to our expectations. On that note I am reminded of a simple equation that a mentor of mine in business once showed me:

S = P - E

or, Satisfaction = Performance - Expectations

You could easily substitute "Reality" for "Performance". In other words, our expectations, when compared against our reality- our circumstances - our performance, determines to a great extent whether we are satisfied or dissatisfied, content or discontent.

So, should we have high expectations and risk being disappointed? Or, should we set low expectations and attempt to ensure a sense of satisfaction? Maybe we should have different perspectives depending upon whether we are talking about your task list for home improvement on a Saturday verses your business forecast for the year, or your child's academic performance, or your expectations of healing from a terminal disease, or whether your favorite professional sports team will win this weekend.

What about our expectations of people who are different than us? There has been much talk recently in the U.S. about profiling certain individuals at airport security because of the Christmas Day bomb attempt on the flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. Should a person's race or ethnicity or religion impact our expectations? If so, how far should we take such expectations?

How about the poverty cycle? What impact do expectations have on those who feel trapped by their economic circumstances? What impact do certain types of governmental programs have on poor peoples' expectations of breaking that cycle?

Many of us have heard of the Pygmalion Effect that was popularized by the classic movie "My Fair Lady" or more recently "Trading Places", where the power of high or low expectations significantly impacts a person's performance and progress. How far should we go in applying this powerful principle in human behavior?

How about marriage? (This is a touchy one.) How do our expectations of our spouse impact our attitudes on a daily basis? What is the impact over time of fulfilled or unfulfilled expectations on this most intimate of relationships? How can changing our expectations assist in breaking a bad cycle?

How about the expectation of economic and technological progress that has been with us since the Age of Enlightenment in the 1700's? How has this promise of progress been fulfilled, or not? How has its lack of fulfillment led to attitudes of despair and indifference?

My working hypothesis is, expectations:

-have an over-sized impact on our daily lives.
-can be dangerous when they are too far from reality.
-are largely within our control.

I look forward to exploring some of these questions . . .

In Christ alone,