Monthly Archives: February 2013

I Want to be Like Peter, Paul, and Mary

No, not that Peter, Paul and Mary… so get the thoughts about the 60’s folk group out of your head. From the spiritual perspective Christians recognize the need to be Christ-like. Unfortunately, considering the fact that none of us is sinless, it is impossible to truly replicate the life of the greatest man that ever lived. We can, however, emulate those who were servants of Christ as they followed him and be those who are found faithful before him. Paul wrote: “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Therefore, consider some biblical examples we should desire to be like.

I want to have the boldness of Peter. Peter is one of the most poignantly developed individuals in the New Testament. Was the young disciple outspoken? Yes; somewhat overzealous? Obviously; in over his head? Without a doubt. Nevertheless, there was boldness in Peter that we should desire to insert into our own lives. He was not perfect, as Galatians 2 and Matthew 26 clearly demonstrate, but he was confident in what he believed and was not slow to present it. Whether it is, “Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God” (Mat. 16:16), or, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), many of Peter’s statements have become common sentiments and acknowledgements used by every Christian in myriad situations. His boldness to proclaim the Gospel and state his beliefs clearly should be the desire of every Christian.

I want to have the conviction of Paul. As one reads the writings of the apostle, every page in covered in the conviction of salvation from, and service to, Christ. Oftentimes there is doubt in the hearts of Christians as to whether they are truly acceptable in the sight of God. It is not that they are hiding deep, dark secrets that they know will condemn them; it is instead that they feel so inadequate to the blessings bestowed upon them that they struggle to accept the reality of them. Yet Paul’s conviction was steadfast and sure. From, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ” (Rom. 1:16), to, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phi. 4:13), and culminating with, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7), Paul’s conviction of the truth of God’s Word and his salvation through obedience to it is evident. Yet that confidence does not stem from his own actions and self-centered trust; but in the full and complete trust in the Savior and his promises. Every Christian should have the conviction of Paul when it comes to truth and the righteous servant’s place with the Lord.

I want to have the devotion of Mary. While the name of Mary Magdalene and her relationship with Jesus has been dragged through the mud and besmirched by many Biblical “scholars” through the years, there is no doubt the devotion she had to the Lord. Mary was one who, after having seven demons cast out of her, helped take care of Jesus and his disciples throughout their work (Luke 8:2-3). Yet, unlike so many others, her devotion did not end with words. She was present at his crucifixion, remaining with Jesus’ mother and others while observing the Savior put to death (Mat. 27:55-56). She remained at the sepulcher where Jesus was laid (Mat. 27:61); and was one of those who had come to finish putting a proper burial of the Lord in place on the first day of the week (Mat. 28:1). It is also without a doubt that she would have been among the women listed as being present with the disciples after the Lord’s ascension (Acts 1:14). She was devoted to Jesus, his work, and the needs of his ministry. We need to have that level of devotion to Christ. Though he no longer walks this earth today, his body is present through the church (Eph. 1:22-23). Just as Mary cared for Jesus and his disciples in their ministry, we should be as devoted to caring for, and working with, the body of Christ today.

Christianity needs more people who want to be less like the world and more like Peter, Paul, and Mary; who care far less about what culture and society say and far more about what God says; who are far less worried about the money in their physical banks and far more worried about the securities in their spiritual banks. It is my prayer that every Christian desire with zeal to be like these three stalwart servants of Jesus. If we will, we can rest assured the Lord will be pleased (John 8:31-32).

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Do We Pray Scared?

We just finished an examination of Daniel 9 last night, and in Daniel’s prayer in that chapter there were a number of things that stood out to me. I find it to be true that many Christians pray to God with timidity. We are afraid to say the wrong thing or to make a request in the wrong way. We act as though we are afraid that if the prayer does not have the proper affectations it will be thrown out by God without consideration.

Consider what Daniel did: he quoted Scripture to God (Vs. 11-13), he spoke of his expectations for God (Vs. 17-19), he spoke with boldness and humility, he was respectful yet firm in his conviction that God must keep his promises. An examination of the myriad prayers of the Old and New Testaments brings many similar examples.

Yet, there are many today who are more worried about the technical aspects of prayer than anything else. “Do not quote Scripture to God, he already knows it,” they say. “Do not remind God of his promises, he remembers them,” they argue. “Do not tell God what you expect him to do, you are not in charge,” they cry. While these statements are true from the standpoint of God’s knowledge, place, and control; yet, it is also true that God’s servants have done exactly these things in Scripture and never been rebuked or punished for them. They were respectful, humble, and having knowledge of their place and purpose they did not order God around, but they did state their expectation of God keeping his promises and their desire for that to take place.

You see, as the children of God we are not to come before him as timid, scared children. Instead, we are to come before him with boldness. For it is written, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). We must stop being scared of saying the wrong thing and with humility and respect come boldly before God with the things that are on our hearts; with our needs, troubles, cares, and concerns; but also with what we need from God and what he has promised to provide. There is a vast difference between being bold (literally from the Greek “unreserved in speech”) and being arrogant, petulant, and bratty. Let us not pray scared, but boldly and confidently before the God who loves us and shows mercy toward us every day.

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The Virtues of Godly Women

In studying for a class I will be teaching tonight on the history of the early church, I stumbled upon a passage written by Gregory of Nazianzus, a fourth century elder. This passage is from an oration given at the death of his father concerning his mother, Nonna (who converted her husband after they were married, bringing him to Christ and eventually to become an elder in the church). We often times hear discussion of the role of women in the church, with the feeling often being that if the woman is not at the forefront in recognized leadership before the congregation she has no place of prominence and is being “held back” or is being placed “under foot” of men. Gregory shows the beauty of the service of a godly woman and that such feminist characterizations could not be further from the truth. In thinking about what is stated concerning the “virtuous woman” in Proverbs 31, consider this woman as a 4th century example of those principles.

I have heard the Scripture say: Who can find a valiant woman? and declare that she is a divine gift, and that a good marriage is brought about by the Lord. Even those without are of the same mind; if they say that a man can win no fairer prize than a good wife, nor a worse one than her opposite. But we can mention none who has been in this respect more fortunate than he. For I think that, had anyone from the ends of the earth and from every race of men attempted to bring about the best of marriages, he could not have found a better or more harmonious one than this. For the most excellent of men and of women were so united that their marriage was a union of virtue rather than of bodies: since, while they excelled all others, they could not excel each other, because in virtue they were quite equally matched.

She indeed who was given to Adam as a help meet for him, because it was not good for man to be alone, instead of an assistant became an enemy, and instead of a yoke-fellow, an opponent, and beguiling the man by means of pleasure, estranged him through the tree of knowledge from the tree of life. But she who was given by God to my father became not only, as is less wonderful, his assistant, but even his leader, drawing him on by her influence in deed and word to the highest excellence; judging it best in all other respects to be overruled by her husband according to the law of marriage, but not being ashamed, in regard of piety, even to offer herself as his teacher. Admirable indeed as was this conduct of hers, it was still more admirable that he should readily acquiesce in it. She is a woman who while others have been honoured and extolled for natural and artificial beauty, has acknowledged but one kind of beauty, that of the soul, and the preservation, or the restoration as far as possible, of the Divine image. Pigments and devices for adornment she has rejected as worthy of women on the stage. The only genuine form of noble birth she recognized is piety, and the knowledge of whence we are sprung and whither we are tending. The only safe and inviolable form of wealth is, she considered, to strip oneself of wealth for God and the poor, and especially for those of our own kin who are unfortunate; and such help only as is necessary, she held to be rather a reminder, than a relief of their distress, while a more liberal beneficence brings stable honour and most perfect consolation. Some women have excelled in thrifty management, others in piety, while she, difficult as it is to unite the two virtues, has surpassed all in both of them, both by her eminence in each, and by the fact that she alone has combined them together. To as great a degree has she, by her care and skill, secured the prosperity of her household, according to the injunctions and laws of Solomon as to the valiant woman, as if she had had no knowledge of piety; and she applied herself to God and Divine things as closely as if absolutely released from household cares, allowing neither branch of her duty to interfere with the other, but rather making each of them support the other.

What time or place for prayer ever escaped her? To this she was drawn before all other things in the day; or rather, who had such hope of receiving an immediate answer to her requests?… Or stood like a pillar at the night long and daily psalmody? Who had a greater love for virginity, though patient of the marriage bond herself? Who was a better patron of the orphan and the widow? Who aided as much in the alleviation of the misfortunes of the mourner? These things, small as they are, and perhaps contemptible in the eyes of some, because not easily attainable by most people (for that which is unattainable comes, through envy, to be thought not even credible), are in my eyes most honourable, since they were the discoveries of her faith and the undertakings of her spiritual fervour. So also in the holy assemblies, or places, her voice was never to be heard except in the necessary responses of the service. (Source: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/gregnaz-fathr.asp – Medieval Sourcebook: Gregory Nazianzus, Oration 18, On the Death of his Father – Sec. 7-9)

There are certainly many examples that could be used to illustrate the points being made here, but let it never be said that God has no place for women, no appreciation for their talents, or no view of them as equals. May God always continue to bless the virtuous, godly woman.

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Understanding Intolerance

There are a number of buzzwords that are used in today’s society toward those who stand up for Biblical doctrine and precepts; one of the most commonly used is “intolerant.” If an individual speaks out against an action with the conviction it is wrong and harmful to society and the soul, he is branded with this term with all of the malice and scorn available to the accuser.

However, it is very easy to throw around terms because that is what has been heard from others; it is quite different to understand what is being said and how it applies. Consider the word “intolerance” for a moment. The root word of “intolerance” is “tolerate.” To “tolerate” something is defined by Webster as: “to allow the existence, presence, practice, or act of without prohibition or hindrance; permit; to endure without repugnance.” In other words, to be tolerant means to allow the presence, practice, or the enacting of something without prohibiting it. It is permissiveness without rebuke.

Therefore, “intolerance” means the unwillingness to allow the presence, practice, or act of something without prohibition or hindrance. You see, tolerance is a façade. It is intended to present the surface of ultimate acceptance, until you disagree with that to which the one accusing you of intolerance is tolerant; then the adherents of tolerance will show their intolerance toward you. In reality, tolerance is nothing more than a byword for those who lack conviction. Tolerance is what is practiced when an individual does not believe in anything; because to be truly tolerant means one can condemn nothing and must condone everything. It is the quintessential principle of anarchy. Very few people actually believe in tolerance, and even fewer actually practice it.

Because of the way this term has been thrown around and used in our society, many religions have gone out of their way to present themselves as “tolerant;” but can a religion be tolerant and be right in the sight of God? God has never been one of tolerance. Long-suffering: yes; loving: yes; merciful: yes; but not tolerant. You see, if God were tolerant he would never have condemned anyone for anything they ever did that was wrong. Maybe we should ask Nadab and Abihu, Ananias and Sapphira, David and Bathsheba, or Sodom and Gomorrah about the tolerance of God? I believe they would paint a very different picture of God than what many today proclaim. As a result, the servant of God must be as intolerant as God is. Consider two ways Christians must be intolerant.

Christians must be intolerant of sin. It is impossible to teach and convert anyone to the truth without showing the prohibition of their wrong actions. If Christians are to stand up for truth, there must be intolerance for sin. It was tolerance for sin that brought God’s wrath down upon the children of Israel in Numbers 25; it was tolerance for sin that brought the church at Thyatira under the Lord’s scorn in Revelation 2; and it was tolerance for sin that God condemned in Romans 1:32 as Paul spoke against those who condoned and took pleasure in the sins of others. If one is to be faithful to God, he cannot condone one’s actions that violate the laws of God. Therefore, it is impossible for the faithful child of God to be tolerant of many of the things for which this world desires toleration (homosexuality, abortion, moral relativism, buffet-style faith and worship, etc.).

Christians must be intolerant of evil. Though it may seem redundant to deal with evil after sin, they are not the same thing. Christians make mistakes and commit sins, that does not make them evil. Evil is the unabashed, unashamed, and unwavering defiance toward that which is good and righteous. It is defined as being that which is harmful, malicious, wicked, and seeking to uphold immorality. God told Israel, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isa. 5:20). There are many in the world that are not simply in the wrong, but are actively trying to stamp out the right. These are the actions of evil and to refuse to speak out against them is to refuse to uphold the standard of bearing the light of the Gospel before all men (Mat. 5:11, 14-16).

There is one other matter that must be discussed regarding this understanding of intolerance. Just because one is “intolerant” of an action, belief, or system does not mean that they are hateful, mean-spirited, or desire harm to come to one involved in such actions. We are required to speak the truth about the position in which one’s actions and beliefs place them, yet there is still this commandment from Christ: “But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you…. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil” (Luke 6:27-28, 35). Christians should never be those holding ill will toward another or desiring harm to come to them; but instead fervently desiring penitent acceptance of the truth and the willingness to be obedient to it.

Brethren, if we are to stand with God we must be intolerant of those things toward which he is intolerant. This does not mean that every opinion a man has that does not agree with mine requires me to take him on with the fervor of a lion pouncing on prey, for there are many opinions that are just that and should be left in such a state. Nevertheless, when it comes to the law of God and the standard of Scripture for salvation and righteousness, my opinion is of no consequence; it is the Lord’s opinion that matters and his alone. That does not mean we have to be hateful or derisive, but neither can we be tolerant with silent condoning of those things which violate the law of God.

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I Thank God For You Always

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now”(Phi. 1:3-5).

There are certain people in life who make a definitive impact that is far superior to others. It does not mean that they are better, or that you love them more than others, but they have done things in your life that taught you something useful in a more vivid way than anyone else. Paul was one who was constantly telling those to whom he wrote of his thoughts and remembrances of them and how they impacted his life. Unfortunately, we often leave those feelings unsaid until the individual to whom they apply is gone from this life. Let me encourage you to not make that mistake. Many good, godly servants have never known the fruits they have born in the lives of others because they were never told; but it does not have to be such.

Therefore, I would like to briefly use Paul’s example to mention three men who have made a distinct impact on my spiritual life, who I thank God constantly that they were a part of my life, and who I pray regularly for their continued well-being. I will not use their full names, they will know who they are, but maybe their examples will encourage you as well.

I thank God for my father. The man who has had the greatest impact on my spiritual life is the one I spent the first 18 years of my life watching and have tried, in some small measure, to spend the last 11 years emulating. Believe it or not, for a preacher my father is a man of few words, but the lessons he taught me through his actions have always spoken volumes. I saw in my father a commitment to always making the right decision, even if it was not the easy one; his love for the truth above popularity and job security. The times where he did not get angry when most would have (and probably would have excused him for doing so); the love and excitement that my father instilled in me for God’s Word, because I saw it in his eyes and in his teaching. I thank God every day for my father, and I pray that my children will see in their father the same things that I have seen in mine. God bless you mom and dad.

I thank God for Charles. I met Charles a number of years ago and he has made a lasting impact on my life like few others. Charles is a quiet, unassuming man who taught me a great deal about being a humble servant. Charles helped people on many occasions and they never knew it was him. He was never one who desired the spotlight, nor was he one who cared whether he was recognized for his deeds. The way that he fulfilled the principles of Matthew 6:1-18 have remained in my mind throughout the years. On the occasions he helped me and my family (and they were many) he would never accept anything in return, but his response was always, “The way that you thank me is that when you see someone else in need and you have the ability to help them: do it.” I have tried to fulfill that sentiment in my life and to use it as a motivator in my work proclaiming the Gospel. I haven’t been in touch with Charles as much as I’d have liked over the last few years, but he is constantly in my prayers and the thanks for the lessons of charitableness and humility I learned from him will last a lifetime.

I thank God for Joey. There are some people that you meet in life that have an impact in so many ways it is hard to elaborate on them all. In the time that we have been here in Mississippi, there are many people that we love, lean on, and give thanks for daily: but in my life personally there is none that I am more thankful for than Joey. Joey has taught me far more than I will probably ever be able to teach him. He has taught me, through his life and actions, the preciousness of the blood of Christ in a more vivid way than anyone else. He has enhanced my ability to appreciate the mercy and grace of God in a way few others could. In the means by which we got to this day and time, there could not have been two more different roads than the ones Joey and I have travelled; but now we travel the same road as brothers and I am thankful every day for the relationship with Joey that has made me a better Christian and, I think, a better preacher because of it.

These words are not sufficient to say what is in my heart for each of these men, but God knows and I hope that this communicates a small sense of understanding as to the impact on my spiritual life each of these men has had. There are many others whose love and friendship I cherish deeply and whose service to Christ is above reproach and encouraging in the greatest of ways, but there are always some that stand out in the crowd. I believe that with each Christian, there are those they could look to and say the same thing. We are one body and as parts of the same body we rely on one another for comfort, strength, encouragement, and love in Christ.

Let me issue you a challenge today: take the time to tell three of the people that have made an impact in your life that they have done so. It is not to puff them up with pride, or to make them feel greater than others, but to thank them for their godly influence and let them know that their labors are not in vain. Send them a note on facebook, an e-mail, a card, or if they are already gone from this life: remember them, acknowledge them in your heart, and thank God for the time you had with them. May God bless you as you serve him.

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Who Does God Want to be Saved?

Two tenets of Calvinism are Unconditional Election and Irresistible Grace. As one examines these two foundational elements to a doctrine that most of the religious world recognizes and, at least partially, accepts; some very interesting principles are revealed.

Unconditional Election teaches that God “elected,” or selected, every individual that was going to be saved from the very beginning of time. It also argues that this selection was done without pre-conditions (thus the unconditional part). God did not make differentiation between the individual who would live a life in service to him and the individual who cared nothing for him. God simply chose people based on no criteria whatsoever. That being the case, if God chose you to be saved, there is no way for you to be lost. If God chose you to be lost, there is no way to be saved. Your eternal destiny was predetermined before the world began.

With Irresistible Grace, Calvinists build on the principles of unconditional election to teach another doctrine. They argue that when God wants you to be saved and extends his grace to man it cannot be denied. God’s grace is so strong man could not resist it and overcome it if he wanted to do so. Therefore, whether you want to be saved or not, if God’s grace is extended to you as one of the elect, the choice has already been made for you.

However, there is a problem with such reasoning. Calvinism has turned the responsibility of each individual’s salvation upon God. The argument, therefore, is that if you are lost it is God’s fault, not yours; because God did not select you for salvation. How does this measure up with Scripture? Consider the following:

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2Pet. 3:9). Peter is adamant that God wants all men to be saved (he is not willing that anyone perish). If it is the case that God wants all men to be saved, then why would God unconditionally select men and women to be lost?

If, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16), then why would he only extend his grace to some when he could cover all men?

If, “The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men” (Tit. 2:11), then why are all men not saved? Why should we have to bother with proclaiming the Gospel at all?

Even though God’s grace is extended toward man as an outreached hand waiting to be grasped, man has to respond by reaching out and taking hold of that grace through obedience (Heb. 11:6; Acts 22:16; etc.). Hence, God is long-suffering toward men (2 Pet. 3:9) with the desire that all men will obey him in faithful repentance and obedience; for there is not an individual on this earth God wants to be lost.

Unfortunately, many do not believe that statement. The Calvinist proclaims that God forces man to be lost, even against man’s own will. However, there is another group that argues God does not want them. If you have spent any time trying to teach people the Gospel you have come across someone who has said, “You don’t know the things I have done in my life; God would not want me.” Such could not be further from the truth.

Throughout scripture God has taken in and been willing to save people from all walks of life; who have lived their former lives in many different ways (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Consider for a moment that God saved Saul of Tarsus, who at best was an accessory to murder, if not a murderer himself (Acts 7, 9). He was willing to save Simon who was nothing more than a cheap con man (Acts 8). The Lord selected a zealot (a religious extremist) in Simon Zealotes, and one perceived to be a traitor to his people in Matthew, a tax collector, to be among the twelve apostles (Mat. 10:2-4). God added to the church slaves and jailers  politicians and soldiers, poor and rich, Jews and Gentiles, men and women (Gal. 3:27-28). God did not exclude anyone from being able to come to him by means of obedience and the blood of Christ, nor did he state that he only desires a certain grade or group of people.

Who does God want to be saved? The answer is clear: everyone. Who is going to be saved? That is up to you. God has given us the ability to make our own choices in life. Therefore, we must choose whether we will comply with his commands and accept the plan that he has put in place. If we are lost, we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

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The Value of Expectations

How would you feel if you found out that the ball coach for your favorite team entered every game expecting to lose? Or if you heard that a businessman went into every venture expecting to lose money? I think it safe to say that these individuals would not engender confidence in their abilities nor would they incite people to desire their services. Unfortunately, I have often come across members of the body of Christ who act exactly that way. I’ve seen it from preachers, elders, and everyday members. The attitude generally carries the mind-set that whatever is planned, people will not come; whatever needs to be done, people will not do; whoever needs to be helped, people will wait on someone else to do it; whoever is being taught will not really listen and heed; and the list goes on.

I have often used the expression: “People live down to our expectations.” As a general rule, people do not like to be disappointed; to get their hopes up about a situation and find it will not occur as desired. Therefore, it is easier to diminish our expectations initially, so that we are not disappointed when things happen the way we thought they would. The problem with that mentality is the devastating effects it has on our own work ethic. When I do not believe someone will work, I do not encourage them to do so; when I do not believe one will live correctly, I do not bother to give my best effort to teach and encourage him; when I do not believe one is “teachable,” I give half-hearted efforts “knowing” they will fail. Diminished expectations are always met, because they require no effort; but they are also suicidal, because they destroy the person who has them and that one’s ability to impact anyone around him positively.

Expectations are necessary, but beyond the simple need for expectations is the further consideration of the need for high expectations. As a preacher, I expect everyone to love God and his word as much as I do; to want to serve him with the same passion and zeal that I do; to love the souls of men as much as I do; and to be willing to put hands to the task as much as I am. Are those expectations always realized positively? Of course not; but does that mean I should not have such expectations? Consider a couple of principles from God’s Word:

There are biblical foundations for expectations. Paul was one who, as an apostle, wrote to many congregations and individuals. In each instance, he made known to them his expectations for them. He wrote on one occasion: “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Phi. 1:27 ESV). Paul’s expectation was for the church at Philippi to live in the same manner without him present that they would if he were right there with them: an excellent expectation. He would also write to Philemon his personal expectations of him regarding the situation with Onesimus. He tells the Colossian brother: “Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord. Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say” (Phm. 20-21). His expectations of Philemon are easily recognized.

We should not place expectations on others we do not apply to ourselves. Paul was adamant about his expectations for his brethren, but those expectations never extended beyond what he was willing to do himself. He told the Corinthians, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). He told the Philippians to use him, and others like him, as examples to follow in truth (Phi. 3:17). The expectations Paul had for the brethren were rooted in the same principles of expectation he had for himself; one cannot legitimately ask others to do what he or she is personally unwilling to do. Therefore, it is wrong of me to expect someone else to visit when I refuse; to encourage when all I want to do is diminish; or to obey while I disobey.

There is sound, biblical foundation for having expectations of one another. However, one of the greatest flaws seen among Christians is the placing of expectations without ever communicating them. When we expect something of someone, we need to let them know what those expectations are and why. How many times have we moaned to others about the “half-back” Sunday nights, but never gone to those who are absent and extended to them both God’s expectations and yours as a Christian?  How often have we been disappointed in the support received for good works of the congregation, but never spent the time trying to show people why they are good works that need to be supported or have simply decided ahead of time that “most people don’t care” and written them off?

We need to have expectations for one another and they need to be high expectations. Low expectations allow people to continue to wallow in misery and mediocrity. It is high expectation, rooted in potential and ability, that is effective and useful; which is why we are told to, “consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Heb. 10:24). It is amazing to see the impact expectations can have on people when they realize that you care about them, their soul, and their influence enough to think about them and their abilities; desiring for them to be the best they can be. It is wonderful to see the growth of an individual who has been encouraged by confident expectation to grow, prosper, and flourish in the service of God.

However, it must be understood that there is good expectation and bad. Bad expectation berates and demeans when it is let down, it tells how terrible a person is and that he will never amount to anything. Such expectation is destructive and ungodly. Good expectation encourages and strengthens, recognizing the things that are already being done correctly, empowering one with greater desire and confidence; strengthening with trust and faith that others care and are there to help if problems arise. This expectation will make every individual better each step of the way.

What are your expectations of yourself and those around you? Do you expect them to fail? Do you expect them to love God as much as you do; to serve him with the same zeal; to work with the same love and devotion? Have you communicated that to them with love and encouragement, telling them how thankful you are for them and how much you need them (and God needs them) in his service? Or have you expressed to someone your joy and thankfulness that they have been meeting your expectations in serving God with all their heart and working as they should? Let us be about the business of encouraging one another with confident high expectations (whether with cards, letters, one-on-one discussions, or other means) that each of us may grow and prosper in being what God desires of his children.

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