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Great Expectations

Expectations

Most people live in a tension of having expectations about something and subsequently dealing with the reality of whether or not those expectations become a reality.

This happens at work, ministry, marriage, and just about every area of life.

The reality of this tension means people usually do one of two things. They either set high expectations and are disappointed when those are not met or they stop having expectations altogether in order to avoid disappointment.

But there is a viable, healthy third alternative:

Set your expectations high, but be satisfied when you don’t meet them.

Continue to aim high. Dream big and want the best for things in your life. This allows us to accomplish greater things, to excel, and to do more than we think we might have otherwise.

But… whenever you don’t meet the mark set by those high expectations, don’t get discouraged. Be content. Be satisfied knowing that you did what you could and continue having high expectations.

Where do you typically find yourself in this tension?

Practical Potluck Theology

I like food and I like parties and I think God does too. I also think the church is overdo for some practical potluck theology.

potluck

Numerous passages in Scripture encourage the enjoyment of food and drink (Eccl. 9:7; Isa. 25:6; Rev. 19:9.) Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding party (John 2:1-11). He enjoyed enough dinner parties to be accused of being a drunkard and a glutton (Matt. 11:19) and he shared a post-resurrection beach barbecue with his disciples (Luke 24:40-43). 1 Corinthians 10:31 even says, “…whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Every aspect of a Christian’s life, including a potluck, has the potential to honor God.

So here are three practical tips for making the most of our church potlucks:

1. Make It Homemade

Far too many potlucks reveal the same scenario. It’s minutes before meal time. Little thought or effort has gone into preparing, so a mad dash is made to the grocery store. The cheapest, most convenient item is snatched up and subsequently plunked down on the table. (I understand that not everyone has the funds and/or talent for food, but this is not usually the issue.)

Instead, pull out your best recipe, spend some time in the kitchen (or over the grill) and put some heart and soul into it. It shows that you care and it’s a tangible demonstration of love for those who will partake of your culinary creation.

2. Consider Others

Potlucks have a way of turning humble saints into greedy gluttons (reference the Corinthians and Paul’s rebuke in 1 Cor. 11:17-34). The first few leave a tornado-like path of destruction while the rest of the poor souls sift through the rubble.

Let’s remember that this meal is not about getting your needs met (in this case, your stomach full) and it’s not about everyone getting what they want. It’s about people coming together in unity and doing what they can to demonstrate that other people are more important than themselves (Phil. 2:3).

3. Be Present

The best kind of feasts include much more than what goes in our mouths. They involve celebration, laughter, conversation, and people being present in the moment. While the food and drink should be savored and enjoyed, so should the people.

Be where you are. Don’t rush through the moment. Interact with others… tell stories. Get to know someone new. Laugh, play and take your time and don’t keep your face stuck in your phone.

When we do these things we will begin to understand and experience for ourselves why God values the celebration of the shared meal.

What have you experienced at your church potlucks and food celebrations? 

Making Progess- Four Simple Steps to Getting Where You Want to Be

Most people have an area of their life, either personally or professionally, they would like to work on to make improvements. The challenge isn’t having the desire to make something better, it’s actually doing something about it.

Doc - Jan 24, 2013, 12-05 PM

Here is the simplest approach I’ve found to make changes in whatever area you want to work on.

1) Know where you are.

This is the easiest step and probably the reason you’re even thinking about making changes in the first place… there’s an element of dissatisfaction.

2) Identify where you want to be.

Be as specific as possible. The more you can “see” what it would look like and be like the better.

3) Decide what you have to do to get there.

This is your “to-do” list. Again, be as specific as possible without bogging yourself down to the point that you get overwhelmed.

4) Do it.

This is always the hardest step, but when we see how the “doing” actually moves us where we want to be, it serves as a powerful motivator.

What other advice or recommendations would you offer to help someone get where they want to be?

Lessons From Lance Armstrong We All Need To Remember

The story of Lance Armstrong’s fall should not surprise us. Fundamentally, it is a story about a struggle against sin. Though the details change from person to person, his story is an old one and is often repeated.

Oprah Interviews Lance Armstrong

Genesis 3 describes Adam and Eve in the garden. To greatly simplify how the events of the “original sin” unfolded, it went something like this: they saw the fruit, they wanted the fruit, they took the fruit, and then they desperately tried to hide the fact that they had taken the fruit.

That’s how the story of sin goes… we see, we want, we take, we hide. None of us escapes it.

As we wrestle with sin in our own lives, we would do well to keep these five things in mind:

1. Sin is Alluring

We all know that when sin begins to draw us in, we’re not exactly thinking straight. We might know something’s wrong, but sin whispers in our ear until we find a way to rationalize and justify our actions (James 1:14-15).

2. Sin is Never Secret

We would like to think that we can keep things hidden, but sin has a remarkable way of being uncovered and discovered. It’s better to just assume that it will. Even ‘secret’ sins will not remain secret forever (Luke 12:2-3, 1 Cor. 4:5).

3. Sin Affects Self

Sin carries a heavy burden. It causes separation in our relationship with God. We miss out on God’s presence and power in our lives. It traps us in guilt and shame and immobilizes us from ministry. It numbs our hearts, steals our joy, and robs us of abundant life.

4. Sin Affects Others

My sin cannot be isolated from you and your sin cannot be isolated from me. There is always a direct and/or indirect effect of our sin on others. Alexander Maclaren says it well, “… no man’s sin terminates in himself.”

5. Sin Has a Solution

Jesus went to the cross to rescue us from our sin. His grace is amazing because he offers us the forgiveness none of us deserve. He lovingly fixes, redeems and restores everything we made a mess and “makes all things new.”

What other lessons have you seen or learned about our shared struggle with sin?

The Secret to Anxiety Free Decision Making

People make thousands of choices every day. While most are fairly trivial, all of us occasionally face decisions that carry greater weight. The pressure to make just the “right choice” often results in a deluge of negative emotions including anxiety, fear, and even paralysis in making the decision.

Decision Dice

Many times, the pressure is actually self-induced based upon an untrue assumption. What is the assumption? Perfect knowledge.

It’s stating the obvious, but the truth is, human beings are not omniscient (all-knowing.) That means we do not have perfect knowledge and we will never entirely understand the myriad of factors related to any situation. This is why Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart… do not lean on your own understanding.”

So, take into consideration any wisdom that God has given that relates to your decision and make your choice. You may or may not make the perfect decision, or even the best decision, but that’s okay. Why? Because of the secret to anxiety free decision-making… grace.

God’s grace is not only sufficient to cover our sins, His grace is sufficient to make up for any and all of shortcomings that come as a result of our sinful condition of imperfect knowledge. (Even our most self-assured decisions are guarded by His grace.)

Don’t have all the facts? It’s okay, you have grace. Afraid you might make the wrong decision? Don’t fear, rest in God’s grace. Feeling anxious over what’s best? You shouldn’t. Remember the unfailing power of God’s grace that is completely and totally sufficient to make up for any imperfections in your decision.

What decision are you facing right now that you need to trust God’s grace for?

The Social Media Sham

Social media has a lot going for it. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and all the others have a place and a purpose, but they also come with a warning.

A friend shared a story about his recent visit to the “happiest place on earth.” As they stood in line waiting for a ride, he noticed two brothers nearly killing each other, only to be interrupted by their mother who told them to stop and smile so she could post a picture to Facebook.

Thus the danger or social media… it’s not reality.

When it comes to social media, we capture the highlights, not the humdrum. We capture the meal, not the dishes. We capture the smiles, not the tears. We show the world our best moments and conveniently leave out the rest.

Sure, a trip to the beach includes smiles and sunshine, but it also includes packing, driving, trudging through sand, sunburns, malicious seagulls bent on destruction, individuals oblivious to their body-to-bathing-suit ratio, and sand stuck in various cracks and crevices. Those things rarely make it in.

Not Reality

Why does it matter? The things we see and read in the world of social media don’t accurately represent life. We only get the highlights.

If we use what we see on social media as a means for comparison, we run the danger of being discouraged and disappointed with the reality of our own lives. My marriage won’t measure up, my kids won’t measure up, my church won’t measure up, my friendships won’t measure up… nothing in my life will measure up.

Yes, we should capture the smiles and share them with the world. But, we should also find contentment in the ordinary and the mundane that makes up a great majority of our lives. Stop comparing. In the ‘unreal’ world of social media, you’ll always come up short.

For the Better

With the exception of some deeply religious hypocritical leaders, people really liked hanging out with Jesus. And it wasn’t just because of the cool miracles.

Plenty of people really liked having Jesus around because he always made people and situations better. Funerals and wedding parties… better. A trip to the well by a licentious women… better. Worship in the temple… better. A party with drunks and prostitutes… better. Walking down a dusty road… better. Fish fry at the lake… better. Every person, every situation, every moment was better because Jesus was there.

Jesus was there, so life was there. Hope was there. Love was there. Encouragement was there. Peace was there. Truth was there.

What about us?

There is never a time or a moment where our presence does not have the potential to have an effect on the people we come in contact with.

How do conversations shift when you join in? How does your home change when you walk in the door? How is work different because you’re there? How does your presence in your faith community change? How is your neighborhood or community affected because you are there?

If we’re anything like Jesus, they’ll all be better.

Who I Am

Getting What You Didn’t Earn: An Olympic Illustration

I love watching Olympic competition. I’m one of those guys that chants, “USA, USA” even though I’m cheering for an event that ended hours ago, 5,000 miles away.

One of my favorite Olympic moments is the medal ceremony. I’ll admit to getting a little choked up when an athlete stands on the podium, medal hanging around their neck, beaming with pride as their flag is raised to the playing of their national anthem. That moment represents the culmination of years of hard work, hours of rigorous training and significant sacrifice.

The rewards of being the best in the world are many. Sure, there’s the shiny piece of metal, but there’s also the pride of accomplishment, your name in the record books, accolades from heads of state, lucrative endorsements, and the admiration of a nation.

But what if you were given all these things and you didn’t deserve it? How would you feel if someone else did all the work and you got all the reward?

The Bible describes just this kind of situation.

To state the issue as simply as possible, our sin makes us guilty and deserving of punishment. We need to be made right with God, but unlike an Olympic athlete, no amount of effort, hard work or determination can earn it… but Jesus did.

When we place our faith in what Jesus did on the cross for our benefit, the results are staggering. Romans 5:1 says, “… since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Part of peace come through forgiveness. Forgiveness is when I did something bad and deserving of a consequence, but the consequence doesn’t come. I’ve been forgiven. I’ve been pardoned.

While forgiveness is great, the work of Jesus does much more.

The benefit of forgiveness is that my guilt is removed and I’m not held responsible for what I’ve done. But, forgiveness only brings me back to neutral. That is, it only brings me back to where I started before I did something wrong.

Being justified takes things a step further and adds a positive… it adds righteousness.

Righteousness is a performance record… a really, really good performance record. It’s a record that says, “You’re the best! You made it! You have what it takes!”

When we place our faith in Jesus and are “justified,” the performance record of Jesus is given to us. Jesus is the one who does the hard work of living a sinless life. Jesus is the one who makes the sacrifice of His life, boldly defeating sin and death.

Then He does something amazing. Jesus gives us His record of accomplishment. He takes the prize that He earned, places it around our necks, puts us on the podium and says, “Enjoy all the benefits!”

Is it hard for you to believe that Jesus offers you all the benefits of His hard work? Do you appreciate being justified as much as you do being forgiven?

The One Thing Children Don’t Need To Learn

Not a single child in all of history has ever needed to be taught to be foolish. Folly just comes naturally.

I was speaking at a camp for middle school students this summer just outside of our town. My wife and nine-year old son decided they would like to drive out and join us for the evening. They didn’t know if they would make it in time for the evening meal, so Shelly told him to pack a meal to go.

They made it to camp in time for dinner so the packed meal remained in the bag it was brought in. Later that night, I opened it up to see what was inside and discovered the following contents.

While his dinner maybe missing a couple essential food groups (or all of them), he does get high marks for color and consistency.

We see similar examples of folly all the time in children. Running with scissors and not looking before crossing the street are due to folly. It’s why a child will eat donuts until they throw-up. Nearly all trips to the principal office are folly related. Folly is why teens surf on cars and jump from buildings without thinking about the importance of landing.

What can we attribute all of our “seemed like a good idea at the time” moments to? Folly. Folly prevents people from considering the outcome of their actions.

Proverbs 22:15 tells us, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.”

Children do not naturally gravitate toward wisdom because their hearts having something stuck to them that prevents them from making good decisions. So parent’s have been given the responsibility to “unbound folly”… to drive it far from them through the use of discipline. We might say our job is to be “folly extractors.”

Discipline removes folly and replaces it with wisdom. This could be through verbal warnings, time-outs, loss of privilege, spankings (given in love), or other forms of discipline. Correction should always begin with the least severe method and increase only when the more gentle method fails to bring about change. We know that forms of discipline must change as our children grow older, but the mission remains the same.

But have to stay the course. We must remain vigilant. Unlike wine, uncorrected folly doesn’t get better with age. The stakes get higher and the consequences become more severe.

No parent enjoys discipline, but we cannot allow folly to bind their hearts. To not discipline is to not love. Sparing our children from the potential consequences of foolishness is the most loving thing we could do for them.

How have you seen this relationship between folly and discipline in your own childhood, as a parent with your children or with other children/parents?

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