God Keeps Teaching Me About This, and I Hope Someday Soon I'll Learn...

I want to circle back and say one more thing about expectations. I know, you are thinking, “Dude, move on, you blogged about that, like, 5 weeks in a row recently.” I know. But this is a forum where I can share where God is working on me. And this has been a big one for me. I don’t even think I got it down perfectly, because the Lord is still graciously teaching me.

When the Apostle Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians, he was in a jail cell. A jail cell, as in: a prison cell, as in incarcerated, confined, chained, the big house… as in no freedom, restricted, locked away from society at large. Why am I belaboring the point…? Because when you read Philippians, Paul seems so unbelievably joyful and content! You would think he wrote it from Disney World, but he wrote it from a jail cell (did I mention that?).

So where is the joy? It certainly wasn’t from his circumstances… but neither was it from wrong expectations. We often get depressed, frustrated, or angry because we have unbiblical expectations.

  • If only my spouse were a better…
  • My kids had better be…
  • My job HAS to start getting better…
  • My doctor better say…
  • I should be seeing a better financial situation this year…

When we start laying out un-biblical expectations, we will lose our joy in a hurry. If there is something I had to learn in 2011, and am still learning in 2012, it was to not get my hopes up in my own expectations. Too often I did, and too often I became depressed, frustrated, AND angry. Things I was expecting to happen, didn’t. And things I was almost certain would not happen, did. And the Lord reminded me who is really in control here.

Did Paul have any expectations? He could have said, "I expect to get out of jail, I expect one of the churches to bail me out or break me out, I expect the Lord to rescue me..." He didn't have any of those expectations, really he had just one: it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. (Philippians 1:20)

I want to honor Christ. In my life, by my death. That’s really all I should be looking towards.

That’s one thing that Paul is saying in this verse. We are not going to meet the Lord and say, “I wasted my life on You?! I gave my years on earth to telling people about You?!”

And I will not be ashamed. I will not look back on my life and say “Jesus disappointed me.” I will not look back on my ministry and say, “Jesus wasn’t enough.”

My expectation is that I will cross over to death and rejoice at this glorious truth: Jesus is worthy. Of everything I had, everything I did, every heartache, every trial. Every day that this was all uphill… He is more than worthy. And I will not be ashamed.

That is my expectation. Too much of this life disappoints. Jesus will not.

p.s. - I promise this is the last time I talk about expectations (until the next time)

Prayer: the ultimate game-changer

John 16:33 - I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Life can be hard, amen? The Lord gave us, in John 13-16, some tremendous resources to get us through a hard world. So far we have seen:


He gave us even more, one that we don't use near enough: the PRIVILEGE OF PRAYER.

John 16:23-24 - In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. 

Many times Jesus told us to pray in His name. What does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name? 

This means much more than tacking a phrase at the end of your prayer. It is praying in unity with Christ, that is, praying for what Jesus would want!

Prayer certainly changes things, no doubt about that. But when we pray, when we really pray, we find that prayer changes US! You find yourself becoing less concerned with what you want, and more concerned with what will glorify God. And when that becomes your agenda, it doesn’t matter what the world throws at you because you are in tune with God

In John 14:27, Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."

So enough with trying to find peace the worldly way - it's temporary and shallow.

So enough with expecting everything to be great here during our stay on the earth, it isn’t going to happen.

Are you using the resources that God has given you? We can experience the peace that Christ gives as we do life together, keeping our eyes on eternity, following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, walking in obedience and communing with God in prayer.

Let's do it - but let's do it with the resources God has given us. 

p.s. - that is quite a toolbelt we have!

Not-So-Great Expectations

A couple summers ago, Erin brought home one of those Whamm-O brand inflatable pools. The front of the box depicted the pool, a very realistic painting of the alleged contents of the box. And on this box’s depiction, there were a dozen or so pre-adolescent kids merry-making in the summer heat in this pool. Flying down the slide, playing basketball in the pool, firing huge blasts of water from the water cannons… When I saw the box, I thought I would invite over every kid in the neighborhood for a pool party!

Then I opened the box.

This thing was the ultimate let down. The slide was barely a foot and a half long. The basketball was a little rubber inflatable thing, like what they make floaties out of, and was barely the size of a softball. The water cannons were sad little squirters. You could not have fit 3 Smurfs in the pool, let alone all those kids on the box.

Life is a lot like that sometimes, isn’t it?

We have high hopes, big dreams, great expectations… and we end up disappointed. Life just doesn’t turn out the way we thought it would. I thought I would have a better job…make more money…have a bigger house…have better health…have more kids/no kids/less kids/cooler kids.

We all want comfort, peace, pleasure, and prosperity. The problem is not that we want these. In fact, we were built for these things.

The problem is this: we expect these things from the world. We all have a silly tendency at times to expect that the world is finally going to cash in and give us happiness. Satan’s lie in the Garden of Eden is still his ploy: So we expect good things from the world.

We all have a silly tendency at times to expect that the world is finally going to cash in and give us happiness. Satan’s lie in the Garden of Eden is still his ploy: So we expect good things from the world.

But we have a world system that is manipulated by lies that ensnare us in Satan’s scheme. And that is the way Satan likes it: a world full of deceit and destruction seems to discredit the Creator who has sovereign control. (Tangent: When was the last time you heard Satan blamed for misery? Don’t we usually hear “if God is so good and loving, why is there so much misery in the world…?” Anyways...)

Reality check for us all: we are fallen people (but in Christ redeemed!), living in a world under a curse, surrounded by sinful people, and Satan himself is called the god of this world (until Christ returns to take it back).

So what should we expect from the world? If all this is true, why in the world do we get our hopes up?

Reality check for us all, continued: Jesus gave us some expectations in John 16:33: I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Jesus promised that in the world, we will have trouble.

But what are these things” He said would give us peace in Him? We’ll catch those next time.

For now, let’s examine our expectations. Are we bitter because things aren’t exactly as we think they should be? Or are we starting to get it…? Things will never be perfect here.

Oh sure, we are blessed, have much to be thankful for, and life is good! Yet things are not optimal by any means, and many weeks, there are more hard days than easy days. There is sickness, death, betrayal, disappointment, hurting, abuse, abandonment, and discouragement. And that's on a good day.

But when the LORD returns to restore all things, to make all things new (Revelation 21:5), then our expectations can change!

So in the meantime, we rest on the promises of Christ. 

p.s. - totally would have invited you to that pool party

Are you full?

Well, it looks like we are about to start another new diet in our family. Not that I am complaining (much), because it is for our kids. And I can stand to lose a couple (dozen) pounds. 

I know I need a new diet, I just don't want one. Why? Because like everyone else in the world, I trained my appetite. Appetites don't just happen, you and I train them, whether they are good or bad. You may be hungry for the salad, I am hungry for the pizza. People like me have a problem staying full, because we fill up on junk. Junk is a quick fix, but it never satisfies.  

This is true spiritually. People aren't hungry for the truth of God's Word because they have filled up on the junk of the world, which never satisfies. But the good news is, like our physical appetites, our spiritual appetites can change - if we can discipline ourselves to start filling up on the right things. 

Many people come to Jesus with an appetite for the wrong thing. "What can Jesus do for me? Jesus, make me rich! Jesus, get me outta this mess I put myself in. Jesus, make me happy!"

And then they leave disappointed, thinking the problem is Jesus!

In John 6, Jesus fed 5000 men, and afterwards the disciples crossed the sea by boat, but Jesus just decided to walk over... on the sea! When the crowds went looking for Him (6:25-26), they found him, but they were interested in more free lunch! Jesus even called them out on it: "...you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves."

Everyone wants a free lunch, but Jesus made it clear what they really needed, and what they needed to be seeking! In verse 27, He commanded, "Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you." Where can I get a loaf of that? Jesus said (v35), "I am the bread of life."

Coming to Jesus means receiving Jesus, not just looking for what Jesus can give me, but receiving Jesus Himself.

Church-goers everywhere face this every Sunday. They go to church with wrong expectations, and then blame the church when they don't get what they think they need. They always feel unsatisfied, because they weren't ready to receive the One who satisfies our deepest spiritual need.

Satisfaction can only come through Jesus Christ. We don't need reformation, we need transformation. We don't need a quick fix, we need life! And only Jesus can give life. 

Like the song goes, "Above all else, Jesus, give me yourself."

So what about you? Are you satisfied?