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Unmet Expectations

“Unmet expectations”. These are not words that we may not voice frequently, but most of us certainly think it.  If you’ve been in a relationship for more than a minute, you have probably experienced unmet expectations. You may have even experienced a severed relationship because of unmet expectations. As a pastor, I’ve seen the nastiness of unmet expectations wreak havoc in many relationships; but it doesn’t have to happen. Here are some thing I ask you to consider…

  1. Many people begin relationships with lofty expectations.

Don’t deny it… You most likely have had lofty expectations of someone when you began a relationship; maybe even before you met the person.  Oftentimes these lofty expectations begin in our minds when we’re young, when the idea of romance initially takes root in your mind. It’s nearly impossible not to let lofty expectations begin, and even more difficult to keep them in check once they take root.  The question arises, “Where do these lofty expectations originate?”

The seeds of Lofty Expectations in relationships have a plethora of origins; such as:

Parental Influence.  You watch, sometimes subconsciously, the way your parents interact. This may cause you to mimic their relationship, expecting the same thing from your future husband or wife that you see in your Father and Mother.  From one perspective, if you’re a female, you may have watched your Dad being very romantic, often buying your Mom flowers, opening the door for her, calling her charming names, doing well financially, taking out the trash, mowing the yard, doing “man stuff”, etc., chances are you will have the same expectations of the male in your relationships. On the other hand, if you’re a male, you may have watched your Mom have great respect for your Dad, working hard, being frugal, preparing meals, making herself look nice, all while having a career, etc. Again, chances are you will have the same expectations of the female in your relationship.  Or you may have experienced things vastly opposite of what I just described and you expect your spouse to be opposite of what you grew up watching.  Regardless, you have expectations from watching your parents.

Societal Influence:

Like with parents, you form presuppositions from society.  We are bombarded by what I call societal agendas.  Every society has a standard, good or bad, and societies will push their standard through television, social media, etc.… People in these settings sometimes don’t’ even realize that these constant influences begin to form lofty expectations that we will impose on our future relationships.  In other words, we will expect our future spouse to act like the characters we’ve seen on our favorite TV shows or in our favorite book.

There are many other influences that help create lofty expectations… the point is, most of us bring lofty expectations into relationships.  But is this ok?  Do problems arise with lofty expectations?  Well, of course.  If not, I wouldn’t be blogging about it.

  1. Lofty expectations become unmet expectations.

Let’s make this as simple as possible; if you go into a relationship with lofty expectations, be prepared for lofty letdowns.  Lofty expectations, sooner or later become unmet expectations, and unmet expectations sooner or later lead to major problems within relationships, especially marriage. Your spouse may do well for a period, meeting your expectations, and you have a sense of accomplishment; “I did well picking this mate”, etc. But as soon as your spouse fails to do what you expect he or she to do, you’re let down. Lofty expectations have become unmet expectations, and the temporary happiness you had from your spouse doing what you expected has disappeared. Now what?!? The slippery slope of unmet expectations begins to do enormous harm.

  1. Unmet expectations become relationship killers.

Once lofty expectations become unmet expectations, and remain unchecked, relationship damage is imminent. You need to understand this; you CANNOT expect unmet expectations to not harm your relationships. This is true in friendships, work relationships, etc., but mostly in marriage. It’s imperative that you know your spouse will let you down, as you will your spouse. It’s not difficult to understand that none of us are without sin; “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23). That includes you… and me… and your co-worker… and your friend… and your spouse… and your pastor… ad infinitum.

When you get upset because someone has not met your expectations, the very core of your relationship begins to crack, and if actions are not taken to repair it, those unmet expectations will cause irreparable damage and ultimately kill your relationship. Make no mistake about it, the more you are disappointed from unmet expectations in your relationship, the more your relationship is doomed.

  1. We have no right to have expectations of others.

The question arises, “Don’t I have the right to expect certain things from people in my relationships?” No… no we don’t. You have no more right to have expectations of others in your relationships than they have the right to have expectations of you. Bottom line; only Jesus has that right…He’s earned it, you haven’t, and never will.

When we expect others to act certain ways, do certain things, don’t do certain things, etc., we are acting as if we are the standard bearers; an attitude of, “you must live up to my expectations, and if you do I will reward you with a relationship, but if you don’t, you don’t deserve me.” In other words, arrogance raises its ugly head. This attitude and actions in a relationship stem from a fallen humanity, not from God. This idea is found in Galatians 6:1-5,

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

(Galatians 6:1-5 ESV)

So how do we approach relationships in a godly manner?

  1. Take your emphasis off others and focus on your relationship with Jesus.

There it is… it’s that simple. If you take your focus off the other person in your relationship and, “take the log out of your own eye…” (Matthew 7:5), your relationship will improve radically. In relationships, it is tremendously important to use the energy you’re exerting on others through unmet expectations, and use that energy to, “examine yourself…” (1 Corinthians 11:28). When this is done, relationships improve. Find your fulfillment in Jesus, not the person in your relationship.

Ted Cunningham rightly said,

Remember, people are not your source of life. Jesus is your source. Don’t ask others to take His place and fill you up. Jesus is an unlimited supply. The people in your life are limited supplies.

Yes, it’s healthy to search for a mate that is like mindeddsc_0100 theologically, and other areas, but the more important matter is, does he or she have a desire for God? If they do, they will improve over time, just as you will. You will never find the perfect person to be in a relationship, so don’t try. Seek someone who loves Jesus, someone whose desires are Godward, and encourage them, don’t have expectations of them. A Christ-centered relationship is sanctifying, each person in the relationship is being set apart by the Holy Spirit; this takes time.

Per Scripture, love is an act of the will; it doesn’t depend on how the other person acts. We are told to love…period. You can love the person in your relationship, regardless of how they act… this is what Jesus did. Marriage models the relationship of Jesus and the church; He willingly loved, even while we were sinners, and gave His life for us. We are to do the same in relationships. When we do, God is glorified and we are satisfied. If your relationship hinges on whether a person acts the way you expect them to, you are not modeling Jesus or pointing people to Him. On the other hand, when you love others, even when they don’t meet your expectations, Jesus is modeled and we are content.

I understand this may be a strange concept, it was to me at one time; but if we chew on it and adhere to it, it will radically change our relationships for the better…

Categories: bible, brokenness, Christians, Friend, Friendship, Glory, God, Gospel, Jesus, mercy, Uncategorized, unmet expectations | Leave a comment

Heavenly Affections

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

(Psalm 42:1-2 ESV)

I’ve grown so weary of bad news.  Day after day thousands of news outlets pour all their efforts into reporting tragic happenings; from images of flag-draped caskets to flooded streets and water rescues.  Video footage from drought stricken countries, war-torn nations, community violence, and school shootings have become commonplace and we’re barely even moved by the reports. It seems as if it never ends and certainly never gets better…especially if you’re a pastor.

Pastors often hear the worst things.  In counseling sessions, people pour out their hearts.  I will say this, nothing surprises me any more…nothing.  In nearly 25 years of pastoral ministry, I’ve learned that people endure horrendous and tumultuous events; and many on a regular basis.  I hear of financial failure, ruined relationships, bizarre addictions, and the list goes on… It never ceases.

Then there’s the video I saw today, of the little boy in Syria whose home was destroyed by a bomb.  He sits in the back of an ambulance, dirty, disoriented, and wiping blood off his forehead.  It was such a sad and sickening sight.

Sin is everywhere, and like a snail that leaves a slimy trial, or a tornado that leaves utter destruction in its path, sin devastates.  I’m sick of the result of sin.  I’m sick of it in my life, the life of my family, the life of the people I shepherd, and it’s far reaching effect throughout the whole of humanity.  In one sense, sin is the mother of disaster; where sin abounds, disaster thrives.  I am simply tired of it all.  The more suffering I see, the more I can be identified with Romans 8:19…

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

In other words, I long to see Jesus.  I long for the day when creation will be restored.  I long for the day that is described in the book of Revelation,

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
(Revelation 21:4 ESV)

Sure, there’s a lot I want to do, a lot of gospel I want to preach, but the more I see this world, the more I want to see Jesus.  David felt the same many years ago when he wrote,

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

(Psalm 63:1, ESV)

A “dry and weary land” gives you great thirst.  For those who are alive in Christ, he is consistently and perfectly creating a disdain in us for the things of this world and ever increasing our desire for him, to be realized ultimately in his presence.  Come Lord Jesus…

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Categories: bible, biblical, Brother, Christians, cross, Glory, God, Gospel, grace, Jesus, king David, sin, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Cleveland’s Messiah

If you’re a sports fan, and not from Cleveland, Ohio, be thankful. The following quote from Wikipedia is reason why, “The Cleveland sports curse is an ongoing sports superstition involving the city of Cleveland, and all of its professional sports teams.  Cleveland has three major sports teams: The Browns of the National Football League (NFL), the Cavaliers of the National Basketball Association (NBA), and Major League Baseball (MLB)’s Indians. The city’s teams have endured an unprecedented combined 156-season championship drought, having not won a title since 1964, when the Browns won the NFL Championship Game, two seasons prior to the first Super Bowl.”

That is the sad state of sports in Cleveland, but they had a ray of hope when, in 2003 their professional basketball team, the Cavaliers drafted the first overall draft pick Lebron James straight out of High School.  Lebron was a highly talented Shooting Guard in High School and was predicted to be an NBA super-star by many experts.  Their predictions came to fruition; by 2007 the Cavaliers were in the finals of the NBA Championship, but ultimately lost the series to the San Antonio Spurs.  It seemed as if the “Cleveland curse” was alive and well.  To make things worse, in 2010 Lebron left the Cavaliers to seek a championship ring with the Miami Heat.  He played four seasons for the Heat, reaching the Finals all four years and winning back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013.

Life was great for Lebron but Cleveland was still reeling over his departure, and for all intents and purposes were nursing a root of bitterness from his perceived betrayal.  But then, in 2014, in an unexpected and surprising decision Lebron announced his return to Cleveland and the Cavaliers!

It didn’t take long for the basketball prowess of “King James” to make an impact; the Cavaliers were back in the NBA Championship series in 2015, but in the end lost to the Golden State Warriors.  Yet again, the Cleveland curse was alive and well!

Fast forward to early December of 2015.  Lebron and his Cavaliers had just suffered an overtime defeat at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans.  Lebron had played well himself, scoring a season high 37 points, but his team seemed lethargic at best.  After being asked about the difference the return of two team mates may have, many were surprised by Lebron’s response,

“It’s only one guy in the world, ever, where everything will be all right when he comes back, and that’s Jesus Christ. Other than that, you can’t bank on nobody being OK.”

Who’d a thunk it?? I mean, we’re used to hearing these obligatory postgame interviews with oftentimes pithy quips from players who would rather be in the locker room showering, but Lebron’s statement was completely out of left field, and somewhat surprising!  Many may have ignored his response and urged him on to a more secular and SportsCenter worthy quote, but I was fascinated by what he said!  It’s as if this quote from Lebron James makes the entire “Cleveland Curse” make sense, at least from my perspective.

Think about it this way, the whole “Lebron era” in Cleveland has been a source of hope for Cleveland sports fans; hope that the curse would finally be over; hope that this special player in the story would bring light to a dark state.  Some even referred to James as “The Messiah”!  But contrary to what many wanted him to do, he deflected the title and duty of “Messiahship” away from himself and on to the one who truly deserves the title of Messiahship and the only one who can do the work of the true Messiah!  In one brief, concise statement, poor grammar and all, Lebron James put it all in perspective.

Sports is fun, but in the grand scheme of things it’s nothing but temporary, and we would all benefit if we would back up a bit and observe a view of the “big picture” of life.  Sometimes sports can be a snapshot of the bigger picture; Cleveland sports most definitely falls into that category.  The “Cleveland curse” surely serves as a metaphor for the sin curse that all mankind is infected with.  We live in darkness because of the curse of sin.  There’s nothing, regardless of how hard we try, that we can do to remedy the curse ourselves.  We must look for someone who can break the curse, someone who is capable and willing to do the work of redeeming man from the curse of sin; someone who can meet the requirements and pay the penalty for the curse; someone who can truly win the championship for us!  Lebron clearly told the world who that person is, and he did not point to himself.  At that one moment Lebron was a modern day John the Baptist who, when some were calling him the Messiah said, “I am not the Christ” (John 1:21), but pointed them to the true Messiah, the one that could genuinely save them from the curse, and pointed them to Jesus. Kudos for Lebron!

Could it be that the entire Cleveland curse is indeed a metaphor for the gospel?  It certainly can be.  If we are wise we will use it as such and take the timely advice of one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Lebron “King” James, by getting our eyes off of temporary things and fallible people and fix our eyes on the genuine Messiah, Jesus Christ, because no one will be “OK” without Him! Look unto Jesus!

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A New America?

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.  (1 Peter 4:19 ESV)



   

This is the last verse in the fourth chapter of the book of 1 Peter.  In a real sense it summarizes the entire chapter and even the entire book/letter of 1 Peter.  It also summarizes what is now or soon will be the society in which we live. 

Anyone with their ear to the ground …actually, anyone with an ear at all has heard reports which tell of our “rights” as Christians that are being tested; some even blatantly seized.  The America of 20-50 years ago is definitely not the America of today.  That America was one in which “Christians” basically pulled the strings, and they did it by pulling the lever in the voting booth.  We voted for leaders who would stand for what we believed and would promote “morality”.

But like a child that gets everything he wants and cries and throws temper tantrums if he doesn’t, we too had gotten used to the government catering to our wants and cowering to our wills.  But those days are gone…and the sad part is we are not realizing it, nor are we, at least in my estimation responding properly.  We are acting and operating as if it were still the good ol’ days in America…  But it’s not! America is different now, and Christians need to comprehend that most important fact.

I am certainly not saying that we should help usher in an anti-Christian era by lack of action on our part.  Yes, we should “stand up for our rights” (at least the few we have left), vote for leaders who will glorify God, etc… but we have to think differently now; we have to think like the believers in 1 Peter were instructed to think; we have to think as if we are aliens in this land (we are), we have to think like God wants us to think when He has brought persecution upon His church.
This is what I will be writing about in weeks to come.  No, I don’t think for a moment that anyone is salivating at the thought of me writing, but for my own sanity and edification if nothing else, I will share some biblical thoughts on how those alive in Christ can and should respond in an anti-Christian society.
Thanks for tagging along…
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Mentioning my mentors, J.W. Long Jr.

This is my second blog in a series regarding the mentors God has placed in my life over the years.  There have actually been many, but I’m mentioning just the ones that happen to be or have been in vocational ministry.  My last blog was devoted to my first pastor, Worley G. Hawthorne.  This one is devoted to my second pastor, J. W. Long Jr.

My first memory of pastor Long was when I was still a member of Park Avenue Baptist Church where Rev. Hawthorne was the pastor.  Several Independent Baptist churches in the Wilmington area had an “Attendance contest” which lasted several months.  Rev. Long’s church won.  That’s not surprising now, after later observing his competitive spirit and “can’t quit” attitude.   After being declared the winner pastor Long and his church, Community Baptist in Carolina Beach, along with all the other churches involved in the contest gathered at Park Avenue Baptist to enjoy a celebration dinner.

As young boys do, my brothers and I were in the church yard playing when Pastor Long and his family arrived.  He had a large family, 8 including himself!  I watched, intrigued as they all quickly yet with the precision of a military unit exited their station wagon.  When Pastor Long got out of the car and started towards the tables where the food was, he glanced over at us, stuck his index finger high in the air and said, “We’re number one!!”  In response, and not knowing any better I barked, “We’re number two!!”  That was my first memory of many.  Sometime later, after some internal problems at Park Avenue Church, my Mom decided to start attending Community Baptist church; Rev. Long had become my pastor.
    
I loved Pastor Long’s family, and still do…they all were very gracious and friendly to me…more than they will ever know!  It was clear that they had been raised with a high view of God and His Word, which speaks highly of their Father…and their incredible mother! 

I’ve tried to think of one word that describes this man best…some that have crossed my mind are, passionate, zealous, fervent, enthusiastic, animated, faithful, hardcore, even fanatical… None of those fully encompass the personality and passions of this man, although he epitomizes each of them at times.  He loves God’s Word.  That’s one thing that was evident from the beginning and remains with him today.  He instilled in me a passion for the Word of God and a desire to hide it in my heart.  That was huge with Pastor Long!!  He pushed us to memorize Scripture…to know it by heart…to be able to recall it whether we had a copy of it in our hands or not.  That was priceless.  His compassion for people drove him to be a passionate evangelist.

His preaching style was unlike anything I had ever heard…loud, passionate, and unreserved.  He certainly wasn’t worried about what people had to say about him.  He seemed, at times to invite controversy; but through it all he was faithful. 

I suppose the greatest influence he had on me was his emphasis on Scripture.  He consistently and constantly spoke of the importance of Scripture and why we should take it not only literally, but seriously.  I will forever be grateful for that!  His passion for the Word of God was infectious indeed!  That is a huge reason why I love expository preaching now…I believe the Bible is God’s Word, and since it’s God’s Word we should certainly consider it priceless and handle it properly.

Pastor Long is in his twilight years now; he still preaches on the radio, and I suppose other places when he can.  His family still carries on his charismatic personality (that’s a good thing), and I still have an extremely high view of God’s Word because of J. W. Long.  There’s so much more I could say, but for now I simply want to say…Thanks Dr. Long, you made a difference in my life…

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Grace years

Last Friday I spent a few minutes at the Wilmington area “Relay for Life” with my daughter Blair and some close friends who are survivors of cancer.  At this venue were thousands of luminaries, each one representing someone who died due to the blight of cancer.  To say the least, it was a sobering experience; an experience which tends to make you re-evaluate priorities, desires, etc. 

I am approaching 48 years old; that can be sobering as well.  I didn’t say depressing…I said sobering.  Getting older doesn’t scare me or depress me at all…as a matter of fact, the older I get the more excited I get, knowing that this sin laden life will be gone…forever…no longer will I struggle with the flesh.  More than that, I will be in the very presence of Jesus.  I’m sure that that sounds trite and unoriginal to many, but I could not be more thoughtful in saying it.  The thought of being with the one I treasure makes all other things pale in comparison…seriously. 

Even though I’m not freaked out over the thought of nearing fifty, I am a bit burdened by it.  I am burdened, thinking of all the self-absorption, disobedience, and wasted time over those 47 plus years.   How much time have I wasted…how much have I focused on myself?  I know better.
 If God sees fit to allow me to live the average life span then I have about another 20-25 years.  In the grand scheme of things that’s not very long.  My overwhelming desire is to live every moment of the time I have left for the glory of my gracious God… I want to be consumed with Jesus.  God has stripped away things from me, even spiritual seeming things, to the point where there’s nothing left but Him…it’s taken nearly 50 years…

I don’t want to spend the years I have left pleasing the flesh…the thought of that sickens me.  I am completely satisfied in Christ; nothing else can satisfy like my Savior.  So if that means working as a bi-vocational pastor…so be it.

I will pour my efforts into glorifying God in that job and introducing people to Him through that job.  If that means being the pastor to a handful of people then so be it.  I will love those people and thank God that He has allowed me the overwhelming privilege to minister to them.  If He takes that away so be it.  I will love my incredible family and strive to model Christ’s love for His church.  I want my mind to be set on Jesus at every moment… I will not allow other things; temporal things to capture me.

Every second of life is a gift from the giver of life…to be used to give Him glory and enjoy Him.  God grant me a few more years to do that…better than the past.

Therefore…  “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”. 
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Thanksgiving to Who??

Psalm 100 is such an amazing song and so very appropriate for this time of year, but one thing stood out to me as I read it again recently; the Psalm is not about merely giving thanks, it’s about giving thanks to our Creator, the one whose grace is far greater than any man could ever imagine. Notice how God is the center-piece in this beautiful tapestry…

(1) Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! (2) Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! (3)Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his;[a] we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (4) Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! (5) For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
(ESV)

I am saddened when I think of how general and pointless my thanksgiving has been at times. Upon reading Psalm 100 it’s clear that our thanksgiving should be directed to one in particular; that being the sovereign, gracious God! Cornelius Plantinga Jr. was unerringly correct when he said,

 “It must be an odd feeling to be thankful to nobody in particular. Christians in public institutions often see this odd thing happening on Thanksgiving Day. Everyone in the institution seems to be thankful “in general.” It is very strange. It’s a little like being married in general.”

Of course, we are not, nor can we be “married in general”; that perverts the meaning and purpose of marriage entirely, as does giving thanks in general on Thanksgiving Day! So while I am so “thankful” to have a day set aside for giving thanks, may I direct all my thanks and gratitude to the only deserving One whose faithfulness endures through all generations!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Valley of Vision

I love “The Valley of Vision”, a collection of puritan prayers and devotions. If you do not have a copy you should! In place of mindless musings on my part I’ve chosen to add a prayer from “The Valley of Vision” which focuses on the new year. This is my prayer as well!


YEAR’S END

O LOVE BEYOND COMPARE,
Thou art good when thou givest,
when thou takest away,
when the sun shines upon me,
when night gathers over me.

Thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world,
and in love didst redeem my soul;

Thou dost love me still,
in spite of my hard heart, ingratitude, distrust.

Thy goodness has been with me during
another year,
leading me through a twisting wilderness,
in retreat helping me to advance,
when beaten back making sure headway.

Thy goodness will be with me in the year ahead;
I hoist sail and draw up anchor,
With thee as the blessed Pilot of my future
as of my past.

I bless thee that thou hast veiled my eyes
to the waters ahead.

If thou hast appointed storms and tribulation,
thou wilt be with me in them;

If I have to pass through tempests of persecution
and temptation,
I shall not drown;

If I am to die,
I shall see thy face sooner;

If a painful end is to be my lot,
grant me grace that my faith fail not;

If I am to be cast aside from the service I love,
I can make no stipulation;

Only glorify thyself in me whether in comfort
or trial,
as a chosen vessel meet always
for thy use.

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Who cares what I think anyway????!!!!

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