Reality Minus Expectations = Esteem

We are so  honored to be with you each day sharing hope. Our outreach has grown at a tremendous pace. We are averaging over 100 new subscribers a day. We just past 102,600 in followers. That’s because people are searching for hope and we provide it.

We are starting a new promotion. The person who is our 105,000 will wins some nice prizes. It goes very fast so don’t miss out. 

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Doug Bolton, the founder of Signs of Hope, is writing  a new book, “Signs of Hope for the Military: In and Out of the Trenches of Life.” It reaches out the military and veterans who may be battling anxiety, fear, depression, addictions, rejections, PTSD, and many other usual suspects. There are 22 military connected suicides every day. That is almost one every hour. We need to help stop those statistics. Be looking for more details about the new book. Look for updates here.

+ Update! The book has been sent to my editor this week. Now I wait and see how many red marks she will have in it. 🙂 

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Have you fallen into the trap of high expectations, and feel sad because you can’t achieve them? You aren’t alone. Too many people are on the same boat with you.

The neighbor has a new boat; now you want one. Mary has a better job, now you want a better job. You saw a guy drive by in a souped up hot rod, and now you want one.

It can go on and on. We seem to always want more than we have. We expect to be recognized as the most successful person in the neighborhood.

What this leads to is disappointments, depression, anxiety, etc. We have to face reality, and realize that maybe we can’t have that boat, job, or car that the other people have.

What we need to do is accept the spot where we are, and live a good life, of serving God to our fullest.

If we really live with that in mind that leads us to esteem. People see us as we are, and accept us as we are. They look up to us, because we aren’t trying to climb over people to get where we want to go.

So, Reality, (The way we are) compared to expectations, (Where we want to be) should look like this math problem solver.

Reality – Expectations = esteem. Simple math. Just face reality, and quite trying to reach such high expectations, and your esteem will be much higher.

If you are wallowing in the muck and mire, because you feel you are a failure. It may be because you expectations are above your reality that is right for you.

Remember:

You are never alone.

You are never forsaken.

You are never unloved.

And above all…never, ever, give  up!

 

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Expectations

He says to himself, “Nothing will shake me; I’ll always be happy and never have trouble.” Psalm 10:6

There is no such thing as a trouble-free life. This is naïve, presumptive, and proud. Pride instills false confidence and unrealistic expectations. A man thinks himself immutable and omnipotent to conclude he will always be free from adversity. Jesus said just the opposite. He taught that we are not of this world, therefore the world will hate us (John 15:19). This is not an invitation to a life of ease. It is a guarantee for conflict. The naïve boast of an out of control optimism not based in reality. His house is built on sand, and he will experience loss when the first winds of suffering blow over his life. Pride sets us up for a fall (Proverbs 16:18). There is no way to totally shield ourselves from pain.

We who feel overly secure are never safe. There is no opulent home or outrageous bank account that can keep us from the inevitable suffering. Wealth sets us up for disappointment. Boastings are not buttresses, and self-confidence is a sorry security. Our confidence is in Christ, not in our ever-changing life of uncertainty. He has a perfect purpose outside of ourselves. He has a much greater and more massive meaning. We can expect great things from Him because He is great. He is immovable and immutable. We vacillate. We change. We struggle. We doubt. We fear. That is why we cast our lot with the Lord. When life happens and the bottom falls out, we have a solid foundation in our Savior.

Pride, on the other hand, brews naïve expectations. This is the ruin of fools. When they succeed, their confidence bloats out of control. There needs to be a dose of humility to bring them back into the realities of everyday life. Indeed, in your success do not seclude yourself from ordinary people. Make sure you engage with those who are still clearing their career path and muddling their way through marriage or struggling to raise kids. Engagement in the lives of others leads us to a more fulfilling life. It is in our success that we are set up to serve others. To give back is to govern like God. This is what He expects. Godly expectations lead us down the road of service and selflessness.

So instead of insulating our lives from all danger and risks, we follow the lead of the Holy Spirit. We ask questions like, “What does God think?” “Will this opportunity contribute to my spiritual growth?” “How does my spouse fit into this plan?’ “What is best for my family?” “What will give me the most leverage for the Lord?” We seek to align our expectations with eternity. It is an ongoing process of dying to ourselves and coming alive for the Lord. So do not become disillusioned in your discomfort.

“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:12-13)”. It is not a life of ease that we need to expect, but a life of obedience. Moreover, do not expect money to be a cure-all. More money applied to naïve expectations sets us up for bitter disappointment. Instead, expect great things from God. Trust Him in and with your troubles. These are expectations for the mature of faith. Wisdom aligns our expectations with His. Expect this.

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The Other Side (of the Wilderness)

This week our guest is Christopher Wolf, again we are blessed by his one of his post. He is a Pastor, author, and a great friend. He has been in the desert and is come full circle of a prayer he prayed at the beginning of his ministry. He has seen his share of droughts, and is now beginning to see the raining down of God’s blessings as never before. Please take a moment to read and be blessed as I always am by His post…

The Other Side (of the Wilderness)

I have never physically been in a desert or wilderness.

I flew over one once in Africa.

 I have read about them.

 But I have been in the wilderness. I know the wilderness. And I suspect many of you do too.

Let’s talk about the wilderness…

 In the Bible, the wilderness is an arid, dangerous, isolated place. But it is where God’s people are sent to be refined, challenged and taught to depend completely on God. The wilderness is this unlikely place that no one really wants to go – but it’s where people truly meet God.

Likewise, today, although not a Middle Eastern desert, you and I have known wildernesses. Sometimes it’s a failing marriage or a divorce or a loss of a loved one. Sometimes it’s a diagnosis. Sometimes it’s a faith crisis or loss of faith. Sometimes it’s treatment for a disease or an addiction. Sometimes it’s a job change or loss. Sometimes it’s just being a tween or teen. Sometimes it’s after graduating high school or college. Sometimes it’s when you are caring of an aging or troubled parent or child.

I can’t show it to you on a map. But you know when you are there. It’s a season of life when you wonder if you will be intact at the end of it all. Everything seems out of control. What used to work doesn’t anymore. It seems like the end of certainty and confidence. Our sense of direction is all messed up – what was once up is now down. What was once east is now west. You really understand disorientation in the wilderness. And God feels so far away.

The wilderness is the place where you think it’s all going to end…but it’s actually the beginning…

 Because in the wilderness, while we are stripped of much of ourselves, it’s what’s left that matters most. Like a refiner’s fire, all that’s left is the gold. All the dross and impurities are burned away. This is the purpose of God allowing us to enter into a wilderness. After it, we will be different but closer to what He is shaping us to be. In the wilderness we learn things that we would never learn in any other way. In the wilderness we find strength that we never knew we had; clarified purpose; a trust in God we never thought possible. In the end, we get much closer to seeing who God really is and who we are in God’s eyes – and we are given a choice…

Listen, I know the wilderness is hard. No one wants to be there. Maybe you are there now. I want to share with you what I have learned from my own wilderness over the last two years to encourage you. I want to show you and assure you that there is an other side to this. And I want to tell you the most important thing about the wilderness…

What I learned because of the wilderness…

 Now I know what it is to keep going on when everything inside you wants to quit – this is faithfulness.

 Now I know what Paul meant when he said I no longer live, Christ lives in me. The wilderness strips away your ego, pride and sense of self from a “success” point of view. You really learn in the wilderness that it’s not about “me.” I am a vessel and channel.

 Now I know what it is to be at war with Satan and to face him head on. He is relentless and his goal is destruction. If you are trying to follow God with any kind of passion and faithfulness – he will be there opposing you – via doubt, fear, temptation, playing on your weaknesses, discouragement and he will use willing people too. Though scarred, I know now that he is beatable.

 Now I know that sometimes victory isn’t overcoming – sometimes it’s remaining standing and enduring.

 Now I know that when people try to tear me down and try to tell me I am a failure and I shouldn’t even be in ministry – I know to ignore it. When you stand for something, when you are leading, people are going to oppose you, but don’t believe their lies. We can do very little about their ignorance and blindness, but the worst thing you can do is to entertain foolishness, fears and agendas. Now I know to trust what God says about me more than anything else.

Now I know fully and with certainty who I am in Christ. I suspected it, I had hints of it. But this is it, “It is a matter of sharing and bearing the pain and puzzlement of the world so that the crucified love of God in Christ may be brought to bear healingly upon the world at exactly that point (N.T. Wright).”

 Now I know that I’ve spent twenty years trying to accomplish things and being very driven. Now I understand God wants me to be Christopher and through that He will accomplish what He needs to accomplish. I’ve never had to fight to be myself. I was always just Christopher. Most things had always come naturally to me. But when this was relentlessly tested, for the first time I had to choose. There is an unprecedented choice in the wilderness. Sometimes it’s a choice between living and dying; sometimes it’s choice between being faithful and not; between quitting and enduring; between moving toward God or away; between depending on yourself or depending on God. I had to choose, consciously, to be who God was calling me to be or not. I could have turned away from it. But I didn’t. There’s a choice in the wilderness.

 Now I know that God had us the whole time. Even when it seemed the worst, God never let go – and never will!

 Now I understand beauty in a new way – there is such beauty in brokenness. Too often we are hiding it. It’s much more beautiful than some manufactured façade.

 Now I know the difference (vast) between His strength and my strength.

 Now I know what it is to be fearless, to be at peace, and to know that they can’t take away what matters most – they can’t take away the gold within us that is of God.

 Finally, the most important thing to know about the wilderness is…that it is not permanent. It will end –

 And, now I know that on the other side of a wilderness, on the other side of all the challenge, loss and pain and struggle and discouragement – is a promise and its fulfillment – a promised place, a promised state – a new life! I can testify to you today that God has kept His promises and we have been blessed beyond what we could have imagined.

 I want you to be encouraged today by my testimony. The wilderness will end and it will end with goodness and blessings. There will be a day when you look back and will be able to say that it was worth it and that the blessings outweigh the pain. Take heart and never give up. Let this be a time of depending on God, finding joy in His strength – remember – draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8)! I promise you that God knows what He is doing and it is for our good.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Amen.

 Rev. Christopher B. Wolf

Isaiah 42:7

cbrianwolf@gmail.com

www.christopherbwolf.com

 Christopher B. Wolf is the author of Giving Faith a Second Chance: Restarts, Mulligans and Do-Overs (2007) and the forthcoming, With You: Every Step of the Way (2011).

 

“It is a matter of sharing and bearing the pain and puzzlement of the world so that the crucified love of God in Christ may be brought to bear healingly upon the world at exactly that point.” N.T. Wright

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God’s Planning or Just Random Happening

Do you ever wonder if God has a plan or is life pretty much random? 

Does God really have an agenda or is it simply all about cause and effect?  (Look at the world today…War / Economy / Murder-Suicides lately / Evil-Violence / all seems so out of control! )

 One of the greatest themes regarding Christmas is that God indeed has an agenda.  God has plans and purposes that He orchestrates in real life, in real time, with real people.  The Scriptures are filled with this truth.

Today we look at one of THE most popular characters of the Christmas story…Mary. 

Mary stands out as this humble, willing servant to God’s agenda…an agenda that was pretty radical.  I want to summarize this story and then take a look at our response to God’s agenda today.  God still has an agenda today that needs willing servants.

 I.          God’s Agenda Involves Normal People 

• WHY?  Why would God use normal people?

A.  God uses normal people to shame the values of this world

1.  Let’s think about who Mary really was.  She wasn’t anything special.  She was a  typical Jewish girl.  She wasn’t from some affluent, influential family or from an  important city.  She was a nobody from Nazareth.

2.  This is not the way you and I would have introduced the Savior of the world to  humanity.  We would have chosen a highly visible person in a highly visible city.  

 God chose obscurity!  

3.  During Jesus’ ministry, one person said; “Can anything good come from Nazareth?

 4.  God just loves to prove the worldly system wrong.  There are only 2 Kingdoms.   God loves to show that His Kingdom operates on different principals than this earthly, fallen kingdom.  What seems utterly foolish from an earthly perspective is  God’s wisdom at work!  God’s strategy being implemented!

5.  This world values superstars!  Look at who people’s hero’s are?  (Entertainers /  Sports Figures / People in the lime-light.)  God is unimpressed with all this.  Think about all the characters of the Bible.  Who did God choose to use over and over?

6.  Joseph was a 17 yr old teenager / Moses herded sheep for 40 years / Gideon was a  fearful farmer / King David was a teenager herding sheep / What about Jesus’ disciples?  Most were just a bunch of fishermen.  Jesus picked a bunch of average guys to change the worl

 7.  Why is this so significant?  Because God indeed has a strategy that involves people  just like you!  

 B. God uses normal people as a testimony to the world

1.  Average people just serve as better testimonies to God’s agenda.  We have to stop  looking at our lives through this fallen world’s perspective and see our lives through God’s purposes and plans.  (He’s not looking for superstars

2.  God loves to take average people and use them in supernatural ways.  He loves to  highlight His strategy, His wisdom, His power through people the world would not expect.

3.  This gives us the opportunity to explain to people about the reality of God…the  reality of another Kingdom that operates by different standards.  Average people know that when God does something through them it is God and not them.  They don’t take the  credit.  They give the glory to God!

4.  Christianity has strayed from this perspective over the years.  They have put their  focus on getting Christian entertainers / star athletes / politicians and presidents.  This will help change the world – these people are great witnesses.  Often this has backfired!

5.  God’s agenda has always and will always involve normal / average / every day  people like you and I.  These are the people God uses to change the world.  Just like a girl named Mary!

II.  God’s Agenda Doesn’t Always Follow Typical Methods

 A.    Typical Methods do not Highlight God’s Agenda

1.  God’s methods for accomplishing His agenda are radically different than  ours.  Think about God’s strategy with Mary.  Think about how Crazy this was!!!   Here the angel is telling her she was going to be pregnant and not married.

2.  This may not be as big a social stigma today, but 2000 years ago?  You need to try to wrap your minds around this.  Maybe think about what it was like for a pregnant teenager back in the 50’s.

 3.  Think about trying to explain this to her parents?  Think about trying to explain this  to her soon to be husband Joseph?  This was a crazy, radical, this is hard to understand plan!  BUT, God’s ways are nothing like ours!

4.  There are times when obedience is going to seem crazy.  There are times when  ollowing God is not going to seem logical.  There will be moments where getting  on board with God’s agenda will simply not make sense.

5.  I think about my own journey with God.  I would have never planned for me fall into an active crack addiction.

6.  BUT, now in hindsight I can see God’s agenda all along the way.  WOW!  What a  strategy.  What wisdom.  What an amazing thing God did and is doing?  Talk about a non-typical method!  BUT what an agenda! (Wasn’t random – it was orchestrated)

 B.     Typical methods do not highlight God’s power

 1.  God’s methods highlight His power not man’s strength.  God’s methods highlight  His wisdom not man’s ingenuity. 

 2.  God choosing to use Mary and choosing a radical method just highlights God’s  greatness!  If the Messiah came through natural human methods of childbirth, where would the power be in that?  No, this was supernatural!

3.  Often, what appears to be a crisis, a problem, what appears to be a barrier, to our natural understanding is simply God’s method to highlight His power.  It is God’s  non-typical method to accomplish His will and people see Him.

4.  God’s agenda for Mary didn’t follow a typical agenda.  God’s agenda for your life more than likely, won’t follow one either.  We need to embrace this understanding. 

WHY? cause you don’t want to miss out on what God has in store for you.  God  has a plan for your life.  

 • How do I discover it?  The same way Mary did.

 III. God’s Agenda Requires Our Cooperation

Luke 1:38 “Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.” (NLT)

Mary’s response speaks volumes about her character and the childlike simplicity regarding her faith.  Her response illustrates complete and total cooperation with God’s radical strategy.  Her response is a great example for how we should respond to God. 

 BUT, what does cooperation require?

       A.  Cooperation requires the mindset of a servant  –  I am the Lord’s servant…

1.  I honestly believe in our culture this is not a positive term.  Even though it is  represented hundreds of times in the NT, I think we tend to resist it.  We value  individualism in our culture not servant hood.

2.  Yet to cooperate with God fully, we need to embrace the same mentality Mary had.   “I am the Lord’s servant.”  God, I will do whatever you require / whatever you want / whatever you say.

3.  I think we resist this mentality because with it comes the idea of ownership.  We  don’t want to be owned by anyone.  Yet, this is exactly what Scripture teaches.  

 I Cor. 6:19-20 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price…” (NIV)  Does God really own you?

4.  God has an agenda for your life.  No matter how off course you may think you are,  God’s plan for your life still remains.  It simply requires your cooperation.  It requires you to embrace the attitude of a servant.  

5.  If we are going to become servants this means giving up your agenda for your life  in order to embrace God’s agenda.  You can’t have both.  Until we embrace the  attitude of servant, we will always serve our agenda before God’s.

6.  Is it scary?  Yes?  Will the journey be predictable?  No!  Will you ever regret giving  up your plans for God’s?  Never!

7.  I feel like I am the most unlikely person to be the to be used by God, a recoveringaddict, / never thought of myself as highly spiritual / never dreamed of doing great things for God / Then, God began revealing His plans for my life.

 Now, I had a choice to make.  I won’t lie to you…it was tough!  It was out of my box.  It was a scary thing to decide, “Lord, I am your servant”.  

• In order to cooperate with God like this, it requires one more thing….

       B. Cooperation requires us to surrender to His Plans and Will-May everything you have said about me come true

1.  This is what Mary did.  In order to be an effective servant in the Kingdom of God, You have to sacrifice your will for God’s.  See the surrender in Mary’s response? She surrendered to everything the angel said.

 2.  Is this our response when it comes to the word of God?  Is this how we respond  when we are confronted with God’s truth?  “Lord, May all that you say in your word be a reality in my life?”  WHY?  Because I am surrendered to You and what  you say!

3.  Here is where the rubber meets the road in embracing God’s radical agenda for our  lives.  The critical spiritual issue is the surrendering of the will.  Until our will is surrendered, we simply can’t embrace God’s agenda.

4.  WHY?  Because everyone one of us has a built in default setting.  Our default setting is to always to our own thing.  Live independently of God.  Be your own Master.  Serve your own needs and desires.

5.  The only way this is reprogrammed, is to surrender our will to Jesus.  It is to  relinquish our rights to our lives and surrender our plans for His.  

6.  The reason so many believers have a mediocre experience with God is because of  this issue.  They are trying to follow Jesus while still in their default setting.  This is IMPOSSIBLE!  This is why God’s agenda isn’t clear / you can’t see it / struggle following it.

One of the central truths regarding the Christmas story is that God has a plan!  God has a plan for this world…God has a plan for humanity…AND God has a plan for your life.  In a world that seems so chaotic / random / and out of control, what a comfort it is to know there is a God who is IN control.  AND, this God who is in control would love for you to submit your life under his care…under His agenda for your life.

• His agenda is not beyond you.  It’s for normal, everyday people like you.

• His agenda is not going to follow typical patterns, so you can plan on being surprised…amazed….BUT, you’ll never regret it.

• His agenda though, requires your cooperation.  Just like Mary.  It will require us to become servants, who are surrendered to His will. 

Therefore, if you are tired of the results from your agenda, I want to invite you to change your default settings today.  I want to invite you to respond to God today like Mary did so that God’s agenda for your life can become your reality.

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