What Do You Expect?

Hi there. Hey, watch your step, we’re on the edge. A friend of mine recently equated that concept with “dancing on the rim of a cup.” She said that the key to successful Christian living is “finding the balance” in each aspect of life. That phrase, however, could lead one to think of standing still, when, in reality, life is actually balancing while moving, like walking on a tightrope.

She said that we “stand still” when we repeat personal tradition—not past mistakes, but something we did that was successful, which we then mindlessly repeat in completely different circumstances or context simply because it worked before. That is being lazy rather than alert to what God might have in mind for us now. It is relying on past success rather than being fearlessly alive in Christ in the moment. To her, that is what it means to dance on the rim of a cup, and it is a beautiful thing.

Let’s stay in this metaphor a bit longer. For each of us as Christians, the moment of our New Birth went something like this: There you were, sitting alone in the darkness just off the dance floor, a drooping wallflower, watching others enjoying themselves and each other. The bandleader announced, “Last dance!” and as they played, you wondered if you would ever get to dance before the music stopped and the lights went out. Just then you looked up, and smiling into your eyes was The Man of your dreams, the Lord Jesus Christ, whose loving invitation pierced the walls around your heart: “May I have this dance for the rest of your life?”

You took his hand, and since that moment your Christian life has been a “dance” that is, a reciprocal relationship with the Lord. He not only leads, he also teaches us our part, and helps us follow, when we choose to do so. There is no question that he will do his part, and when we do our part, it looks like the winning Olympic ice dancing team (and we won’t get cheated out of our medal by crooked judges!).

In 2001 I learned some “new steps,” if you will. Being away from ministry, I needed to earn money by doing some other kind of work than what I had done for 32 years, i.e., studying and teaching the Bible, traveling, writing, counseling (in person, by phone, email, and letter), and administrating the work of the ministry. At this point, please grant me a brief digression, which I am launching into for the benefit of others who I hope will come after me in this ministry as full time ministers to God’s people.

Isn’t being a minister of the Gospel just as valid an occupation as any other legitimate form of work? Biblically, yes. The fact that some “ministers” are virtually extorting money from their congregations while providing little service to them does not negate what Scripture says about this subject. My audio teaching titled The Joy of Giving lays out what the Bible says about personal giving, and also addresses the issue of one who genuinely ministers the Word being supported by those who give in response to a blessing, the blessing of his life and ministry to them. If you are at all hazy on this, please listen to it and let us know what you think.

The truth is that if we in this ministry are ever going to come anywhere near spreading the true Gospel around the world, we will need many more people working “full time” and being paid to do the work so that they can get groceries, etc. Some will be teachers, some administrators, some writers and editors, some translators, some data entry, some secretaries, etc., etc., etc. Might that be you? How else will the work get done? What else will we need? Some people committed to the mission and vision of our ministry making lots of money and exercising their ministry of giving, as per Romans 12:8. Might that be you?

End of digression—thank you for your patience. Back to my job search. So, last year a dear pal hooked me up with a once-upon-a-previous-lifetime friend who for the past 14 years in South Carolina has pioneered an SAT prep course called Strategies for Success. He was most gracious in encouraging me and training me to teach the course, which, as of 2010, I am still doing. It has turned out to be one of the greatest blessings from God in my entire life. I can earn money doing comedy for deranged yutes.

In light of our focus in this ministry on the importance of using words precisely, teaching the Verbal section of the course was much easier and more interesting than teaching the Math section. A vocabulary-building strategy we teach is called “Latin for Dummies—The Rule of Four or Five Letters.” It helps kids exponentially increase their vocabularies without having to spend a lot of time memorizing words, although that’s great too.

Take the word “surreptitious,” if you don’t know what that means. What four or five letters do you see in the word you don’t know that are used in any other words you do know? If you can find them, you then have at least some idea of what the word means. Usually they are not the prefix or suffix, so start by looking in the middle somewhere. See ‘em? R-E-P-T-I. Oh yeah, like in “reptile.” Like a snake that slithers up next to you. Right. “Surreptitious” means “done by stealth,” or “sneaky.”

This is a Christian publication, so let’s take the (KJV) biblical word “circumspectly.” Most high school kids do not know what it means. Hey, no problem, if you know Latin for Dummies and use The Rule of Four or Five Letters. At least you can get some idea of the meaning. OK, go for it—what do you see? C-I-R-C? Right on. What “circ” words do you know? Circle, circus, circuit, circuitous, circular, circulation, and lots of words that begin, like “circumspect,” with “circum” as a prefix. What is the basic connotation? Around.

OK, “circumspectly” has something to do with “around,” but hold it—isn’t there another group of four or five letters that can help us? Do you think it’s E-C-T-L-Y? No. You can probably see S-P-E-C-T, and you no doubt can think of spectator, spectacle, spectacular, and spectrum. And the connotation is? Looking. So “circumspectly” has something to do with looking around.

Actually, S-P-E-C is more precise than S-P-E-C-T, because if we start with S-P-E-C, we won’t miss words like species, special, specific, and speculate? Think about it. In Genesis, on the sixth day, how did Adam name the animals? With his eyes closed? No, he LOOKED at them, and determined their “species” by what he saw. That made each species “special,” that is, it LOOKED different from the others. Cool, huh?

What is on my heart to share with you is a brief Bible teaching based upon some S-P-E-C words. I thought of this some time ago when I was asking myself, “What do you expect, John?” Have you ever asked yourself that question? Sometimes you ask it after you have done something stupid (or someone else asks it to you). But when asked looking forward, it can open a door to profitable self-introspection as to the degree of your faith.

What do I expect—from God? The prefix “ex” means “out from,” and the “s” is dropped from S-P-E-C-T to form the word “expect.” Therefore it has something to do with “looking out from.” Sure, and we are to be looking out from ourselves at the promises of God, with faith that they are going to come to pass. Used only in Romans 8:19 and Philippians 1:20, the Greek word translated “waits” and “eagerly expect” literally means “anxious looking with outstretched head.” I want that to be the posture of my faith in my heavenly Father.

I want to be like the lame man at the Temple gate in Acts 3, who was “expecting to receive something” from Peter and John. I want to be like Paul when he was on the ship in a storm in Acts 27:25 and he was expecting that things would turn out “just as God told him.” OK, so I had best see God as big as I can, right? How can I do that? Maybe by “MAGNIFYING” Him. That is, making Him look bigger to me. The bigger He looks, the smaller the obstacles look in comparison.

Perhaps you have heard it said that the Israelites looked at Goliath and compared him to themselves. They then ran away from him. But David looked at the same giant and compared him to GOD. He then ran toward the pipsqueak (comparatively) to take him out. Sounds like it was pretty much all about vision, that is, their perSPECTive of the situation, and what each ex-SPECTed. The Israelites figured Goliath was too big to hit. David figured he was too big to miss!

The bigger I see God, the more I will enter in like David did to do his part, knowing that God will make up the difference. The smaller I see God, the more I am a SPECTator in life, which I do not want to be! I want to get in the action, but I know it is a spiritual battle. I don’t want to make a SPECTacle of myself, so I must walk circumSPECTly, looking around and paying diligent attention to what is going on inside of me and outside of me, and I must be SPECific about it. I can’t afford to SPECulate when I can know for sure from God’s Word.

The more I build a relationship of trust with God and the Lord Jesus, the better my relationships with other people will be. One of my goals is to reSPECT each person who enters my world. Obviously, “reSPECT” has something to do with “looking again.” I’m usually pretty good about esteeming someone to the end of being kind to him, but I need to improve at looking again (and again) to see the gift that he or she can be to my life.

The more I MAGNIFY God, the more He magnifies me, and the more SPECial I look to those around me, that is, they see the fruit of the spirit in my life. Some might even call it SPECTacular, that is, worth looking at—and having in their own lives. When I trust God and act on His Word, the more SPECial I realize that I am to God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Being of the SPECies called “Christian” takes on greater meaning for me and inspires me to want to glorify my Father. And the result? When I stand at the judgment seat of Christ, he will look back on the SPECTrum of my life and reward me richly.

I’ll be looking forward to seeing you there, too.

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