How's Your Expector

Did you know, your tomorrow can be better than your today. I’ve been going through a list of words that will help each of us make the rest of our year, the best of our year. The tenth word on my list is “expectation”. What are you going to do with the days you have left this year? Let’s start with what you are expecting. Did you ever think about how we are all different and even if we have the exact same skills and talents, what we do with them will be different from each other. Think of it like this. If we each bring home a bag of identical groceries, I’ll put them together differently than you. The dish you come up with will look and taste differently than mine. If we take the ingredients of each day, it will be different from what someone else might do with the same ingredients. Regardless, we take what we’re given and we want to make the best of it.  


What are you expecting? What are you expecting for the rest of the year, for the rest of your life? The level of your expectation sets the level God is free to work. We can change the world by changing the level of our expectation. We can change what happens in our families, our circles of influence, and our churches on a Sunday in the same way. Whatever you expect with confidence becomes your self-fulfilling prophecy. Read Mark 11:23-25. Have no doubt, believe you have received and you can have anything you ask. It will be yours. But, when you pray, forgive first. So God will forgive your sins too.  If you believe little, you will receive little. You don’t have to settle. Pray bigger. Expect bigger. Receive bigger. It doesn’t take any more energy to have a big dream than it does a little dream. With God all things are possible.  Michelangelo said, “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our dream is too high and we miss it, but that our dream is too low and we reach it.” Don’t settle for reasonable and disconnect yourselves from the abundance God has available. 

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Make the Rest of Your Year, The Best of Your Year

We are halfway through the year and I want to pause and help you understand that no matter how your year has gone, whether great or terrible, you can make the rest of your year the best of your year. God works all things together for your good and no weapon formed against you will prosper. All things are made new in Him. Don’t fall into a thinking pattern that whatever has happened to you or whatever will happen to is God's will. Your decisions shape your circumstances. For example: If you run out of gas on the freeway, this is not God’s will. It was your decision to not buy gas 10 miles back. If everything that happened was God’s will, there would be no reward for obedience and no penalty for disobedience. “Whatever will be, will be” is not truth and it is not the way God works. You can’t go back and start your year over again, but you can start from now and make a brand new end.

The difference between seasons is wisdom and the difference between miracles is information.
Hosea 4:6 says people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. You can be connected and not informed and you can have access but not possess. You may have access to the King, but not know what He knows. We need to be looking and seeking wisdom. It’s available. Ask for wisdom. I believe I have some wisdom for you today. How do you impact the rest of your year to finish it well and make it the best?

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Stay Humble

A couple of weeks ago, we talked about humility - what it means to be humble. Today, I want to continue on that topic. A lot of people have the wrong idea of what humility is. They think being humble means you have to let people walk all over you, that you can’t do anything, or that you don’t have anything nice.

 Well sure, you can look at yourself as that, but wouldn’t you rather want to know what God says about being humble? After all, His opinion is the only one that really matters. But let’s be honest. Humility of all the virtues is the hardest one to gain and maintain. Why is that? Because we all want to be first, we all want to be seen, and to simply feel that we are important. And the truth is that we can be all of those things, not in ourselves, but in Christ. In and of ourselves we are nothing - but in Christ, we are everything. 

So, humility- what is it? Well it’s the opposite of pride. And as you may know, this month of June is pride month, but we’re calling it “humble month”. Pride means to boast, to be high-minded, or in other words, to think of yourself more highly than you ought to. Now, this doesn’t mean that God wants us to have low opinions of ourselves, or not see ourselves with value. Rather, it’s a matter of not having the mindset that we are better than other people. 

The reality is, that when we judge or criticize others, it’s the fruit of pride. Pride is the reason you don’t want to apologize when you know you’re in the wrong. It’s the reason you can’t forgive when someone has done you wrong. Luke 14:11 says, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” When we look at satan, we see that pride is the reason he fell from Heaven. He wanted the glory for himself - wanted everything to be about him. God sure humbled him. This isn’t something that God takes lightly. He hates pride. 

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At It's Finest

Do you feel like you’re in the middle - emotionally, financially, relationally? Your situation is better than it used to be, but you’re not where you know you’re supposed to be. In James 1:2-4, James tells us “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” For some background, the book of James is one of the oldest New Testament writings. James was a prayer warrior. He was also known as “Camel Knees” because his knees showed evidence of much time in prayer. He died a martyr. He was pushed from a building but didn’t die, so was beaten to death. He prayed the whole time he was being beaten. Most significantly, he was Jesus’ half-brother. Even though he grew up with Jesus, he questioned the idea of Jesus being the messiah until after he had seen miracles and the resurrection. In his book, he never refers to Jesus as his brother, but as Lord and Savior. I believe his words carry some weight.

James starts this passage with “count it all joy when”. WHEN. Not IF. We are going to face trials and they will come in all different types. Don’t be surprised when they come. It’s good to note that James is writing to converted and Jewish Christian’s who have been dispersed because of persecution. But he tells them to count it all joy!Trials are part of life but, we tend to ask “why” when we’re going through trials.  Know this, your trial could be divine. God is not trying to take you out. He has a purpose. The goal is not to quit in the trial but to go through it. Trials are different from temptation. Temptation lures you away from faith. Divinely purposed trials are like gold in a fire. The impurities rise to the top and the dross is skimmed off…and then the gold is put back in the fire. Trials perfect our faith. In trials we look for when it’s going to stop. We wait for God to intervene. We say “When” but James says to say “Win”. Stay with it. Go through it. Get the victory. Realize the truth that we are more than conquerors through Him. What are we winning - God’s purpose for our life fulfilled. How do we get through the trial? We have a choice. When you’re being hit from all sides, count it all joy. Joy is different from happiness. Joy conditions and sets the environment. Joy is the unrelenting thankful trust in God in spite of circumstances. Have feelings but don’t let feelings have you. Working on your mind, what you listen to and watch, helps you command the feelings. Don’t go by what you see. Go by faith in God. Faith is stepping out when you’re not sure, knowing God’s got you.

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Don't be a "Gracist"

So, what made Jesus mad? I've been processing this the last few weeks in my series “Angry Jesus.” I saw a church sign the other day. It said, “We love hurting people.” I realized as I read it that if you accent different words in the sentence, you get a different message. The truth of the matter is, I have heard so many stories over the last few weeks, and of course over 30 years of ministry, of how the church has hurt people. Ironically, that's what was going on back in Jesus' day. Today I want to focus on John 8, my favorite story. It's about a woman caught in the act of adultery. We do not know who she was, but for today, I’m calling her “Janice”.

“The religious scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” (John 8:3-5).This story has inspired a new word, "gracism." It's just as dumb as racism, but it's not about the color of a person’s skin or where they come from. It's based on the color of the sin they are guilty of. If I'm going to look down on you because of something that you've done, disregarding what I’ve done, this is what I call “gracism” Your sin is not any different than my sin. There are no different levels of sin. Lying seems worse than gluttony and murder seems worse than adultery. I get that thinking. But I have no right to stand and gloat because I think my sin is less than someone else’s sin. That makes me a “gracist”.

Here's the truth: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." A later, scripture says, "And the wages of sin is death." What does that mean? All sin is mortal - murder and adultery, gluttony and lying.  Jesus grew up with a mom who felt like Janice, right? People called Jesus an illegitimate child. Mary was pregnant with Jesus out of wedlock. Whether it was her fiancé or someone else, it was against the law. And I believe that childhood experience of growing up with a mom who He knew was holy and loved by God, but who people judged and condemned, gave Him a deeper level of compassion as He dealt with the people He encountered.

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Indifference to The Least of These

On this Mother’s Day, regardless of what this day means to you, we can agree that children are important to Jesus.

Throughout history, people have attempted to paint the perfect portrait of Jesus. Sometimes, He's smiling. Sometimes, He's crying or praying. We all have our gentle, sweet image of Jesus, but that picture isn't complete. If we're really going to understand the Savior of the Bible, it's time to take a fresh look. For years, Christians have asked, "What would Jesus do?" But what if we asked a more illuminating question, "What made Jesus mad?"

The theme verse through this series is from Matthew 23:13, "You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people's faces." The three times that the Bible says Jesus was mad is in the temple when religious activity blocked access for the Gentiles to get to God (He had a “temple tantrum” there), the Sabbath healing where He was grieved by the hardness of their hearts (they cared more about the rules than people getting to God) and the woman caught in adultery (stay tuned). His people, church people, missed the point - people's needs. 

People need access to God and they need care. God's first commandment is love God. The second commandment is love your neighbor. Who's your neighbor? It's God's kid. We can't make God happy when we’re blocking His children from a healthy relationship with Him or neglecting real needs. The Pharisees were busy counting out their dill seeds for their tithe and straining gnats from their drinks so they didn’t eat anything unkosher. But, all the while, God’s kids were in need all around them. They just didn't care, or didn’t take time to look up from their religion to notice. The point is not to focus on following religious rules in order to please God, but to love God and love your neighbor. By the way, you can't do one without the other. 

Today, my focus is the case of Jesus’ own disciples. "People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them." They're like, "No kids right now. Jesus is busy." When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. What made Jesus mad? His disciples were blocking the children from coming to Him. I always imagined Jesus saying “Let the kids come to me” in a soft, gentle voice. But, this is in His mad voice, “You knuckleheads, it's not about all the important adult stuff. These are the people that need to get to God.” I know the disciples had good intentions, but this made Jesus mad. As a matter of fact, He followed it up with the craziest statement Jesus ever made, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6 NIV). This sounds like Tony Soprano, not how I imagined Jesus speaking based on my Sunday school pictures.

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Live Dangerously

Today, I continue with a message on things that made Jesus mad. Anytime there's blocked access to God, it makes Jesus mad. If you haven’t seen my message on Jesus’ temple-tantrum from last week, please go back and read/listen.

So, legalism… I hate it. If you've got a stupid rule, I'm going to want to challenge it. I want to know why the rule is there and if it makes sense! Rules are never going to be able to cover every scenario we could come up with and an effort to try to make rules that do so results in stupid rules.  Do you realize your behavior, your judgment, your rules, may be keeping people out of Heaven?? Jesus said it this way in Matthew 23:13 (NIV), “Woe to you …You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” Earlier in Matthew 23, Jesus spoke to the crowds and said, “Do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, burdensome loads and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”  To quote a modern icon, Homer Simpson answered Bart’s question about what religion they were, “You know, the one with all the well-meaning rules that don't work out in real life ... Christianity.” What happens if Homer's statement is true? Well-meaning rules that don't work in real life create a huge unnecessary barrier and this makes Jesus mad.

So, do we not need rules? Of course, we need rules. I know we need rules. I know society needs governance. God gave us rules because He loves us. That's the difference. He loves us so He gave us rules. Think about the Ten Commandments for a second. They're all for our benefit. They provide a foundation for a relationship with our loving Father and for our general well-being, individually and socially. Here's the thing, the problem is when our interpretation of the laws of God hinder people getting to God. At that point they are our laws and our rules. If we don't understand God’s laws but we’re expecting others to follow those interpretations, it creates a barrier for people to get to God. This makes Jesus mad. In Mark 3:1-6, Jesus decided that it was time for the Pharisees to learn a lesson about forcing people to go through well-meaning rules that don't work in real life. And so, He broke one of them. “Once again Jesus entered the synagogue, and a man with a withered hand was there. In order to accuse Jesus, they were watching to see if He would heal on the Sabbath. Then Jesus said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Stand up among us.’ And He asked them, ‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?’ But they were silent. Jesus looked around at them with anger and sorrow at their hardness of heart. Then He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ So he stretched it out, and it was restored. At this, the Pharisees went out and began plotting with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

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