Great Expectations…ok, maybe not great

30 10 2008

For all you who are flashing to the classic novel, Great Expectations, I give you special props! This entry has nothing to do with Pip and his journey in life, but wow for recognizing a book that every 10th grader cringes at reading.

Ironically, that is what got me writing about expectations. I was leading an exercise in leadership about 3 years ago and asked the question, “How do you define stress in your life?” We went around the circle and the group had some great insights. As I prepared to move on, someone asked, “What is your definition – you didn’t answer?” Without thinking, I quickly responded, “Stress is when someone or something doesn’t meet my expectations.” As soon as I said it, I realized I had hit a nerve with myself. Everyone was content to move on but I was at my desk later pondering this statement.

Stress in my life isn’t deadlines, quotas, and projects getting finished on time. It is when I place a bar for people to rise to and they don’t hit it. It could be a situation when I wanted so much more and it left me wanting. The reason I blog about it today is because over the last few days I am getting blasted for casting too high of expectations. A good friend joked with me – “I don’t even think you realize how you set high expectations on yourself and everyone around you.” That did it. Over the next three days, God began pouring into my life situations, thoughts, conversations where I could see how my expectations were based on me and not that other person. It wasn’t a fun journey but a necessary one. Ironically, I can have unreasonable expectations for myself and for God.

So what is the answer? Do I say to those people and myself, “You just do your best and that is enough.” I don’t have an answer yet. What is wrong with setting a bar that makes people push and strain to get the very best out each situation? As I write that, I am reminded about the Bible stories of Jesus’ life. He didn’t do ministry with mindset. He wasn’t about doing ministry so that every person was touched, changed and brought to repentence. He said, “I only do what the Father tells me to do.” Part of the answer may be in the fact that we are doing God’s will and that is more important than perfection. It may also include that God is about His results and not our own. Someone said a great line the other day – “Jesus was being interrupted all the time in his ministry.” It wasn’t perfect. It was holy, pure and God driven but it wasn’t structured for success. It was organic and flowed. So in situations, it can’t be the ultimate goal to be flawless and perfect in execution.

Maybe the quest for expectations is found in this statement – “Thy will be done.” Not mine, but yours. If I meet His expectation first, how much more fulfilled and happier will I be in mine. Seems so simple but man, this is a tough one.


Solo – God Reveals Himself

29 10 2008

Exodus 33:21-23 (The Message)

21-23 God said, “Look, here is a place right beside me. Put yourself on this rock. When my Glory passes by, I’ll put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I’ve passed by. Then I’ll take my hand away and you’ll see my back. But you won’t see my face.”

So many different ways to go with this one. So, to save an amazing amount of your time listing different thoughts or paths to pursue, let me just give you the heartbeat from this morning. I just want more of God in my life. I want to go through this day and know that God is walking with me. This isn’t an action step. I don’t need to change, modify, elevate my behavior. Instead, I just want to be so intwined in God’s presence, that all my daily function and activity are completed with Him as the core and me as the extension.

Move me out the way God…come on through (me).

Solo – Take a ride on the Waaaambulance

28 10 2008

Exodus 16 :9 -16 (The Message)

God listened to the complaints of the children of Israel. Then, he provided quail and manna for them to eat.

Simple story. Lets unpack two points. One, the God of the universe, the creator, the heavenly Father, Lord of Lords and King of Kings, listened to his people complain. And let them. There are very few people I know who enjoy a good whining session unless they are the ones doing the whining. Most of the time, it is tiring and troublesome. Notice that it didn’t say that they gave constructive criticism, deep insights for improvements or objective observations. No, they were riding what we call the “waaaambulance.” And God listened. It is a great reminder that He accepts us and loves us right where we are. BUT, He doesn’t want us to stay there.

Secondly, he provides what each person needed. God listened and He provided for the daily sustenance of each person. It is so cool that the scripture singles out God’s provision for the individual but also for the whole family. God was looking out for the person but also for the unit. I am fascinated that God still approaches us like that today. He wants a one on one relationship with each of us, but puts such stock into the family unit.

So, here is the question. Do you see any difference between God then and God now? I know how easy it is for me to get on my “waaaambulance” and then look at his provision and think “Is this all.” And how long does that provision satisfy before I am back complaining. (Like the Israelites did). Maybe it is time to get off the waaaambulance and time to get on a new mode of transportation….I am thinking a donkey heading to a cross.

Solo – What difference does that make in Your life?

27 10 2008

I am reading the Solo Bible as my devotional these days and was reading the story of Moses and the burning bush. (Exodus 3:1-6) Great story – one I have heard many times and taught probably just as many. So I am ambling through the devotion when it says this, “God is holy. What difference does that make in your life?” I don’t hear it in the sweet, third grade teacher voice that wants you to learn the difference between blue and green. Instead, I hear it in the challenging, prodding voice of a mentor and coach.

God is holy. If you are thinking that God is “deserving of a reverence that is attributed to a sacred being,” you win the dictionary version. But, I couldn’t come up with that until I looked. When I think of God as holy, I think of unblemished, pure, genuine and sacred. The dictionary’s definition makes me feel like God is so far and untouchable. My definition invites me and challenges me to get closer to God. I want a relationship with someone who is all the things I listed. Which leads me to the story. Moses is having his first one on one with God and he is asked to remove his sandals because it was holy ground. Jack Hayford once taught about how man’s sandals were the last thing man made between Moses’ feet and the ground where God was. By removing them, he had nothing man derived that stood between him and God. That is what I am striving for in my relationship with God. I don’t want anything to come between me and the holiness of God.
The fact that God made himself to Moses is similar to the fact that He makes Himself available to us today. Moses didn’t walk by the burning bush. He approached it mainly because it was really cool that the bush didn’t get consumed. In doing so, that experience changed his life and set him on a course to move a nation. God is holy, you approach Him today – what difference does that make in your life?

When God just doesn’t Cut It

23 10 2008

Have you ever been disappointed with God? Have you ever looked into your life and situation and said, “You really let me down, God?” What about this – “I have done everything I feel I can possibly do and where are you?”

All great questions. I know. I have asked them many times in my walk with God over the last 26 years. Sometimes they are minor. I was disappointed things didn’t turn out my way or something didn’t happen. Sometimes, there were things that I really felt God was going to intervene and He didn’t. In fact, He didn’t talk, move, act or do anything to show his ability or love as God in those situations.

So what do you do with that? It is one thing to be a minister and see how God does amazing things for people that blow you away. And there are other times, I get to observe how God doesn’t meet other’s expectations. Then, I get to be part of the healing and growing process. But what about when it hits you in your most inner being and it becomes mano y mano with the God you have given your life to? What then?

Simple words – difficult action. You continue to love Him and you tell Him everything. (He knows it anyway but I think deep down, God likes it when we pour all of our heart out to Him.) The good, the bad and all the unmet expectations. He can handle it and welcomes the vulnerable, raw times where we bear our deepest feelings to Him. Having been through a couple of these, they are not a 15 minute diatribe to God and “all better.” It is a process of sorting through all the symptoms and getting down into the roots of your disappointment or anger. In that process, you continue to grow in your relationship with God just like you would any human relationship. You continue to do the things that bring you pleasure and joy in your relationship with God. However, you continue to get before Him and “push and prod” on that item. You ask, you explain, you gripe, you get angry, you whine, you recognize the nuggets that come from the forementioned, you begin to see, you begin to understand and even when it doesn’t make sense, you accept God’s will.

There have been a number of times when God didn’t meet my expectations. Rightfully so, He would probably say the same about me. Anytime that I have wrestled with God, He has always won. But in the process of wrestling, I come to love Him even more. Not because he allowed my expectations to be met. On the contrary, he hardly ever changed a situation. I love Him more because every time, in time, He proved to have my best in mind. If you asked me now, “Would you change it,” the answer would be an “no.” Some more determined than others because my desire to have my way is still strong in some areas. But in each case, “no God, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

1 Corinthians 13:12 (Contemporary English Version)

Now all we can see of God is like a cloudy picture in a mirror.
Later we will see him face to face.
We don’t know everything,
but then we will,
just as God completely understands us.

#5 – Questions that Jesus Asked

22 10 2008

Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?” Luke 5:34

This question comes with the Pharisees already complaining. They asked why Jesus hung out with tax collectors and sinners. Then, they are now asking why Jesus’ disciples do no fast pray like John’s or their own disciples.

In my Bible, it gives the note “Jesus knew his death was coming and at that time, it would be in order to fast and pray.” I have a different take on it. Simply, I love the fact that Jesus isn’t giving a “formula” or a “recipe” to honor God. In fact, the common ingredients of that day are still true today. Reading God’s Word, prayer, attending church, worship, fasting, serving, etc are all parts of the culture of growing in God. However, I find that many people are looking for a formula. The take the parts they like and they let that define their view on how to approach and serve God.

Instead, Jesus example is quite different. He reintroduces the concept of relationship with the bridegroom. In the Bible times, it was about obeying God’s laws. Jesus continues to introduce the idea of having a relationship with God. He validates that fasting is important, but not more important than spending time with him. I am the type of person who likes formulas but have found that they make it easy on me. If I follow the formula, it should work. It is much harder to continue to ask God what parts do I need to include today to keep our relationship fresh and strong. I used to read and pray every day. Now, I really try to seek God on what I need to do today to bring myself closest to Him and make myself ready for His use. Sometimes I just worship or meditate on a certain verse. Sometimes I walk and pray. I have even been know to sit and watch the world go by. It has been an amazing transformation in my walk with God. I find the variety in the ways that I approach him very invigorating and fun. Since it changes everyday, I find my relationship like a diamond with many facets and looks.

Fundamentals are good and important. If you want predictable results, follow the formula. If you choose to go from scratch, who knows what God will do?

#4 – Questions that Jesus Asked

20 10 2008

“Which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk?'” Luke 5:23

This question is rich in depth and simplicity. Just before Jesus questions the hearts of the religious leaders of the time. Now, he is full press to demonstrate his authority as the Son of God. But Jesus also demonstrates the power of God flowing through him to touch the paralytic.

It is fascinating that Jesus accomplishes two things in one brief, yet intense moment. First of all, his desire to demonstrate God’s authority to the religious leaders isn’t driven by ego or a need to be recognized. Instead, he was speaking their language. A person who did miracles did not make them stop and take notice. But a person who claimed to have God’s authority to grant forgiveness or do certain things, they stopped, watched and waited. Jesus pierces their hearts deeply because he knew that in challenging them with God’s authority, he was cutting through their own ego and indignation. Now we must stop here and ask ourselves the same question – “Where is God challenging your ego to help you to recognize His authority in your life?” And where there is challenge, are you following the path of the Pharisees and stiffening up or are you surrendering to the one who has all authority in your life? I am amazed at how much I see of myself in bible stories. I would be one of the leaders saying, “Who is this man and who gives him the right to do these things?” We need to embrace the gift and the giver and recognize the authority in which he brings it.

The second aspect is just as fascinating to me – simply, Jesus healed him. With the mere words of “Get up, take your mat and go home,” the man is healed. No lightning flashes, crescendo speech or even a wave of a cape – Jesus just heals him. It says in the Bible, “Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God.” It is almost child like to me. I have a couple of phrases I say a lot in my daily life. One is “God is big and I am not” and the other is “God is God and I am not.” (You can see how I have to remind myself who is actually the one on the throne of my life.) This healing is like that for me – He said it, God did it, so be it. Jesus shows God’s power and mercy and in doing so, draws people’s attention back to God himself. That is my desire – to walk in such a way that people see through my shell into the heart of God that changes lives.

Simple question – packed with depth and grace.