What If We Had Higher Expectations?

Humans are hardwired by God to be in relationship with Him and with others.

  1. God is a Triune God so each part of the Godhead is in relationship with the other parts—John tells us in his epistle that God is love, meaning there is both a Lover and a Beloved.
  2. We are created in God’s image—we are made to love and be loved.
  3. God affirmed our need for relationships with others—see Genesis 2:18.
  4. Relationships with others give us a return on investment, help in trouble, encouragement in dark times, and protection from attack—see Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.
  5. Christians being in healthy relationships with others is a testimony to just how powerful God’s love is.

Sadly, Brennan Manning pointed out that Christians “have come a long sad journey from the first century, when pagans exclaimed with awe and wonder, ‘See how these Christians love one another!’”

When I read this, I don’t want to throw in the towel, but I want to reclaim this awe and wonder! 

One of the things that will quickly kill relationships is having low expectations for the other person or for the relationship itself. This can be counteracted by having higher expectations for other people and for our relationships with them.

John Maxwell noted, “People rise or fall to meet our level of expectations for them. If you express skepticism and doubt in others, they’ll return your lack of confidence with mediocrity. But if you believe in them and expect them to do well, they’ll wear themselves out trying to do their best.”

Consider the high expectations that God had for a relationship with us. If He had low expectations, one of the best-known verses in the Bible would be, “God thought a few people in the world had something worth saving, so He sent a handful of angels to tell us His story.”

Instead, the verse tells us: God so loved the entire world that He sent the very best that He had—He sent His One and Only Son!

  • Jesus died for us when we were unworthy of His love
  • Jesus gave us all His authority to represent Him in the world
  • Jesus empowered us with His Holy Spirit to be His witnesses
  • Jesus told us that our love for others would be a blazing sign to that we were His

Since God has this high expectation for us … what would happen if we had the same high expectations for everyone with whom we came into contact? What would happen if we believed the best for everybody, and then gave all that we could to bring the best out of them? I think that once again people would exclaim with awe and wonder,

“See how these Christians love one another!”

We will be talking more about Relationship Builders & Killers this Sunday and I would love if you could join me!

Five Women; One Amazing Story!

For some of you, it’s hard to put the word “happy” in front of Mother’s Day.

One definition of happy is “favored by fortune; lucky.” In other words, we’re happy IF things happen to be going our way. But we don’t know how things are going to turn out?

In the last Super Bowl, the New England Patriots were down by 25 points early in the 3rd quarter. It didn’t appear that things were going the Patriots’ way … except they won!

So don’t judge “happy” or “not happy” by how things are going in the middle of the story! 

To God, all of History is His Story. He knows every move, every hurt, every fumble, every betrayal, every noble deed, every evil deed … nothing escapes His notice. And it all fits into His Story—We are assured and know that God being a partner in their labor ALL THINGS work together and are fitting into a plan for good… (Romans 8:28).

Check out the stories of these five women—

Tamar had to pretend to be a prostitute in order to get her father-in-law to followthrough on his commitment. As a result, she became pregnant by him and was almost burned at the stake.

Rahab didn’t pretend to be a prostitute; she was a prostitute. She lived in an important city that was about to be defeated by the Israelites. Instead of trying to make things easier on herself, she trusted God and put herself in a very dangerous position.

Ruth was a non-Israelite married to an Israelite man. But when her husband, her brother-in-law, and her father-in-law all died, she took a huge risk in staying with her mother-in-law. She could have moved in with her family in a country she knew, but she went where she was an alien, a widow, and dirt poor.

Bathsheba was married to Uriah, who was a member of the king’s inner circle. But the king took advantage of her when Uriah was away at war, impregnated her, killed her husband, and then married her. Their son from that union died shortly after being born, but Bathsheba trusted God to make something good of her tragedy.

Mary was engaged to be married when she was found to be pregnant. Society could have shunned her, her fiancé could have had her killed for her unfaithfulness, but she trusted God to keep His word.

These five mothers are the ONLY women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-6, 16)

God used all of these women. Despite the way they were treated or mistreated; despite their own mistakes; despite the injustices committed against them. God used all of them as irreplaceable parts of His Story.

To God, all of History is His Story! He’s doing things through your life that you can’t possibly imagine. Trust Him—if you do, your name will also be recorded in the best “His Story” ever recorded! 

Whenever you don’t know what’s going on, lean into Him, cry out to Him. But then say with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” And what does God say? “I am working ALL THINGS together to tell My Story through your life!”

New Name = New Nature

All throughout the Old Testament we find hints about Jesus. Then as the New Testament dawns, the brilliant light of Jesus makes sense of all the hints we had previously seen.

One of the way God hints at the arrival of Jesus and what He would do for mankind is found in the names of people. Hebrew names are interesting things. Sometimes they are quite literal. For instance…

    • A baby who was born at one of Israel’s lowest points was named Ichabod = God’s glory has departed.
    • A baby who was born with quite a lot of hair was named Esau = hairy baby.
    • Esau’s twin brother was hanging on to his heel when he was born, so they named him Jacob = the one who grabs the heel.

At other times God tells parents what to name their babies before they are born. These names tell a story in themselves of what is coming…

    • After a time of upheaval in Israel’s history, God directed the parents to give their son two names: Solomon (which means peace) and Jedidiah (which means beloved by God). This brought reassurance to the parents and to the country.
    • When God was about to bring a quick answer to a problem, He directed the parents to name their son Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, which means God will bring the reward sooner than you think.

But what is most interesting to me is when God changes someone’s name to reflect the new nature in their life.

Abram’s name meant exalted father, but God changed his name to Abraham, which means father of a multitude. His wife’s birth name was Sarai (princess) and it was changed to Sarah (a noble woman).

In these name changes, two things happened (see Genesis 17:1-15):

  1. God put His own name into theirs. God’s name means I AM. We sometimes pronounce it Yahweh, but that is only a guess since the Jews wrote His name without the vowels. That means His name was the unpronounceable YHWH, sort of a breath-sound. So Abram became Abrahaaam and Sarah became Saraaaaah. 
  2. God took the burden off them and put it on Himself. It was no longer Abram’s responsibility to become an exalted father, or Sarai’s responsibility to make herself a princess. God said, “Only with Me in you can you become who I want you to be!”

As you follow Abraham and Sarah’s descendants, you will see time and time again God reminding people: You can’t do it on your own. You must have Me in you in order to live the life I have for you!

Hoshea was born as an Israelite slave in Egypt, yet his parents gave him this name that means deliverer. Before God could use Hoshea to bring the Israelites into the Promised Land, He first changed his name to Joshua, which means God is the ultimate deliverer.

Joshua in the BC Hebrew language is the same as Jesus in the AD Greek language.

Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of being able to fully deliver people not just from physical slavery, but from the eternal consequences of sin. Man cannot save himself, but Jesus Christ can.

That’s why when you surrender to Christ and allow Him to be your Lord and Master, He puts His name in you: CHRISTian! A new name, and a brand new nature because of what it means to have Christ in you.

Check out this video where I explain the cool story behind more name changes—

Does Your Life Have A “BC/AD” Split?

Today we live in 2017 AD. But 1800 years ago the A.D. stood for “Anno Diocletiani” which means “the year of Diocletian,” a ruthless, anti-Christian Roman emperor. In 525 AD, a monk named Dionysius proposed changing the A.D. to “Anno Domini” which means “the year of our Lord,” referring to the Advent of Jesus Christ. Then to mark the dates of the calendar before Christ’s birth properly, the “B.C.” (before Christ) period was introduced.

But BC/AD is just a dating system. There is no such thing as “BC”—there has never been a time before Christ! He has always been! Throughout what we now refer to as the Old Testament (or the BC period),  Jesus is constantly revealing Himself through little hints here and there, but when He comes to earth as a Man, all the hints become a bright, blazing, unmistakable Truth!

Just like Dionysius came up with a new dating system based on the Advent of Jesus, the Israelites had a new starting point marked by the Passover (see Exodus 12:1-7). Everything from this point backward is reset and dates are now counted forward from this moment. Before this time they were slaves in Egypt; after this time they were free and called God’s special people.

The “BC” Passover had three important components:

  • A perfect lamb without any defect (Exodus 12:5)
  • The lamb is slaughtered at twilight (v. 6)
  • The blood is applied to the door (v. 7)

When Jesus came to Earth, He showed how He was all three of those elements. In the “AD” Jesus is—

In both BC and AD God declares the same message: “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” The blood seals the deal and brings God’s forgiveness of sins, and His blessings on the life that is now completely His.

The word remember appears frequently in the BC, as in “remember what God did for you.” In the AD remember appears at a pivotal time—when Jesus shared His last supper with His followers, He told them that Communion would be a time for them to remember all that Jesus did for us as the Perfect Lamb, whose Blood is applied to the Door of our heart, so that God’s judgment could pass over us.

Do you have a Passover date? A time when the BC became AD in your life? If so, good! Keep remembering that, and don’t ever go back to being a citizen of anything but God’s Kingdom.

If not, today can be the first day of a new era for you. By faith you can apply the Blood of the Perfect Lamb to the Door of your heart, and you will no longer be a slave of “Egypt” (a picture of being utterly trapped and unable to help yourself), but a citizen of Heaven! All it takes is for you to believe that Christ’s blood purchased your freedom, so you can ask God the Father to forgive you of all your BC past, and then you can live forever in the AD with Jesus as your Savior and Master!

Check out this video where I explain this BC/AD system more, and join me next week as we learn more about how Jesus Christ bridges the BC/AD divide.

No Apathetic Christians Allowed!

Healthy love loves God and then serves God by loving and serving others. Quite simply—love loves.

But my question is how does love love?

Sometimes we can get a fuller definition of a word by looking at its opposite. So what’s the opposite of love? It isn’t hate because hate is actually the flip side of love. That means our hatred for anything that comes against the object of our love is just as strong as our love is.

The opposite of love is apathy.

Apathy means without pathos (or feeling). Specifically, without feeling that moves us to action. So in order for love to love, it needs pathos as its fuel.

For example. If you hear a coworker mention her frustration with construction slowing down her morning commute, apathy says, “Bummer!” and does nothing else. But love fuel by pathos says, “I found an alternate route that I can share with you.”

When a friend tells you about his frustration with trying to lose weight, apathy says, “Good luck!” Pathos love says, “Here’s the diet that worked for me” or “I’ll go to the gym with you.”

Love is fueled by pathos to: speak out, act out, and reach out.

When Peter was describing the ministry of Jesus, he said, “He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil” (Acts 10:38).

As His follower, we are supposed to feel the needs of the hurting and confused around us, and then let that pathos fuel our love to go around doing good:

  • When you hear someone asking for help, offer help.
  • When you see someone who is down, be their friend.
  • When you don’t see a neighbor for a couple of days, check on them.
  • When you meet someone looking for answers, invite them to church with you.
  • When a friend is sick, send a card, bring a meal, or mow their lawn.

These kinds of good deeds make Jesus happy (see Matthew 25:40) because it’s a tangible way to love God and then serve God by loving and serving others.

BE LIKE JESUS—GO AROUND DOING GOOD! 

There should never, ever be such a thing as an apathetic Christian!

Are You Healthy Enough To Love Serving Others?

Jesus was wholly healthy. That is to say, He was healthy in every aspect of His life—mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally (see Luke 2:52). This is important to note because Christians are called to be healthy in all of these same areas.

The phrase Dr. Luke uses about Christ’s growth is a telling one: Jesus grew in favor with men. People liked having Jesus around. The word for favor is from the same root word where we also get grace. So Jesus was a graceful man.

What does it mean when someone is graceful? It means they are pleasant to be around … you feel safe around them, knowing they will never belittle you or put you down … their focus is on your agenda, not their own … they are a “there you are!” person, not a “here I am!” person.

Bottom line: they are filled with love for others.

Jesus was healthy in His mind, His body, His spirit and His emotions, which allowed Him to be in a unique place where He fully knew how powerful He was, yet He chose to use His power not for His own benefit, but to serve others (see John 13:1-4).

Healthy love loves God and then serves God by loving and serving others. Only a wholly healthy person can truly serve with a right attitude…

  • People with unhealthy thoughts won’t serve because they don’t know they’re supposed to serve.
  • People with unhealthy bodies can’t serve because their disease won’t let them.
  • People with unhealthy spirits shouldn’t serve because they are promoting hypocrisy.
  • People with unhealthy emotions don’t serve because their attitude gets in the way.

Jesus not only told us His loving service was an example for us (John 13:15-17), but He went on to say that our loving service would be an example for others (vv. 34-35).

Healthy love loves God and then serves God by loving and serving others.

Do you have that kind of healthy love? Are you becoming wholly healthy enough to serve?

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What do I know that I’m not yet doing?
  2. What will it take for me to turn knowing into doing?
  3. Can people tell I am growing wholly healthier year by year?

Becoming Spiritually Fit

To me this sounds weird: Jesus grew spiritually strong. Think about that: Isn’t He already God?!

When Jesus came to Earth as a man, the writer of Hebrews says He was made like us humans in every way. So just as you and I have a spiritual health to maintain, so did Jesus while He was on earth.

Dr. Luke noticed this as well when he noted that Jesus grew mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Luke notes His spiritual growth by saying Jesus “grew…in favor with God.” In other words, God was more and more pleased by what He saw developing in His Son.

Yesterday I listened to Pastor Josh Schram explain the parallels between our physical health and our spiritual health. He said that we all know what we need to do to grow physically strong—eat the right food, exercise, get proper rest, and have some way of monitoring our health.

It’s exactly the same way spiritually! We need…

…a good dietMan does not live on bread alone but on every Word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3). Jesus repeated this truth when He was confronted by the devil, and lived it out every day.

…proper exercise—All the health food in the world won’t do us a bit of good if we just sit around. It’s the same with the Bible: we can read it, memorize it, and talk about it, but if we don’t exercise it we won’t get spiritually fit. Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only (James 1:22).

…the right amount of rest—We can’t be in perpetual “go” mode if we want to be healthy physically or spiritually. Jesus knew the value of rest, and frequently He would “withdraw to deserted places and pray” (Luke 5:16).

…to monitor our progress—James talks about the Word of God being a mirror for us, and Paul advises us to “examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

But here was the most important takeaway for me in Josh’s message…

Health is not just one big one-time choice. Health is small daily choices.

A good question for all of us to ask ourselves: Am I making good daily choices which will help me grow spiritually fit like Jesus.

I so enjoy sharing the teaching duties with a couple of really solid pastors-in-training in our church. They have helped me develop this series called Wholly Healthy, and have taken part in sharing messages in various aspects of this series. Please watch how Josh lays out the plan for our spiritual fitness.

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