I looked up the word expectation in the dictionary and wasn’t surprised by what I found. Expectation is the act or the state of expecting, an expectant mental attitude, something we look forward to, or a prospect of a future good or profit. Christians have expectations. They expect honor, security, prosperity, and freedom from fear. These are called blessings and most believe that they come from God. However, there is a proviso.
In verse one of Psalm 112, the Psalmist who remains anonymous says, “How joyful (blessed) are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands.” (NLT) Actually, there are two provisos. If we EXPECT to receive blessings, then we must first fear the Lord or show Him due respect and position in our lives, and obey His commands. And these are only some of the blessings.
The picture that comes to mind when I think of expectation and blessing is one that women and men all over the world have experienced at one time or another in their life, a new baby. Whether naturally born or adopted, we call ourselves expectant parents as we look down the road toward that moment when we will hold that little bundle in our arms. We forget all the pain, weight gain, hoops we’ve leaped through, everything, when we finally have the blessing in front of us. At that moment, our expectations are everything we envisioned. Aren’t they?
Can you see blessing as finished joy in this context? I can and I did, with every child that we were given and one that we will meet in heaven. Blessings from God make us feel as if we’ve been showered with His assurance that we’re on the right track. But it is a direct result of our deep commitment to Him and what He asks of us. Little bundles of joy, in the humanly realm, didn’t just happen. We had to be committed, and follow some guidelines in order to produce or receive a healthy child.
Sometimes we expect God to gift us with His blessings just because we exist. We shake our fist when our expectations are not met. Yet we’ve done nothing to fulfill our part of the covenant.
Jesus tells us we are blessed in many situations that, if someone should ask, we wouldn’t consider a blessing at all. But, when we look at the alternative, and how our walk with God could be affected, we see how blessed we are in our circumstances. It’s all about eternity, and relationship. If we have assurance of an eternal home with Jesus because we’ve asked Him to be top priority in our lives, and we’re building a relationship with God, so we walk closely with Him, then we have been blessed indeed.
For further study: Rom. 8:19; Phil.1:20; Heb. 10:27by
Charles Stanley, in his Handbook for Christian Living, stated, “Becoming a child of God will cost you nothing because it cost Christ everything. However, becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ could possibly cost a great deal.” In the book of Luke, chapter 6, verses 20-23, Jesus is talking to his disciples. He turns to them and says, “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh. What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way.” (NLT)
What does it mean to be a disciple? Jesus was giving these instructions to His disciples and He doesn’t sugarcoat it. He doesn’t make discipleship sound as if it is a bed of roses. Does He? Charles Stanley continues by saying, “Being a disciple – or follower – of Jesus Christ is essentially this: when your desire and God’s desire are in conflict, you go with what God wants.” He calls this battle a daily occurrence and I’m guessing, for many, a minute by minute occurrence sometimes.
The Beatitudes, both here in Luke and in Matthew, are a blueprint for right living, for being a disciple. These verses give us a clear indication about what Christ expects of us and on first inspection, these seem like rules that are nearly impossible to live by consistently. However, I suspect that Christ knew this and that’s why He left us the Holy Spirit to help us along.
No one wants to be poor and yet I can’t help but marvel at the strong faith people in third world countries have in comparison to the majority of people in North America. They have nothing and we have everything. People do not seek to be hungry or to hurt so badly that weeping becomes a daily way of life. Yet, Jesus reminds those who are in these circumstances, that things will not always be this way. The poor will inherit the kingdom of God, the hungry will be fed, and those who weep will be comforted. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ may have some hard times but one day, it will be a time of celebration.
Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ? Do you set aside your wants and desires to follow the path God has planned for you from the time you were born? Has your life begun to reflect God’s will more often than it used to? One day you’ll look back and wonder why some of your desires were all that important because following Jesus, living as His disciple, has become the most meaningful life you could imagine. Gather closer to Christ. Walk where He wants you to walk and watch out. Life could get interesting.
For further study: Gen.12:3; Deut.7:13; Ps. 29:11; Rom.10:12by
The Beatitudes (Be Attitudes)
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
The book of Matthew, chapter five, begins the greatest sermon ever preached, as far as I’m concerned. In this chapter and all the way to the end of chapter seven, God gives us clear direction on how we are to live our lives as Christians. He covers a plethora of topics, leaving no doubt that He loves us and wants only the best for us. But He also wants us to share His love with other people.
He begins by using the term BLESSED. This is a term used to tell us that those whom He considers blessed, He affirms. We are blessed because we practice wise living based on the verses from the Sermon which, as I’ve said, is a practical guide for righteous living. BLESSED means finished joy.
The words in the beginning of chapter five, referred to as the Beatitudes, are intended to comfort suffering believers. Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who are down, depressed, or frustrated. How often have you thought of a wayward child, a sister who shows you nothing but distain because you are a believer and felt as if God was letting you down? He says that’s when we are BLESSED. We sorrow for another human but consider God.
We are BLESSED when we mourn, when we are humble but still seek God and all His righteousness. The pure in heart will see God and as they show mercy to others, mercy will be shown to them. We are BLESSED when we work to keep peace and we are BLESSED when we are persecuted because we adhere to the belief that Jesus is real and we love Him.
Can you think of a time when you’ve mourned for a loved one who does not walk in God’s footsteps? Do you sit quietly when others brag about their riches and achievements knowing that you have the greatest gift of all but they aren’t listening? Do you thirst for more of God every day? Is your heart pure, protected from the evils around you and do you show mercy toward others?
Matthew, chapter five tells us that we will be comforted, shown mercy, and inherit the kingdom of God. We will see God and be called His sons and daughters. That is why we are BLESSED, why we have finished joy when the world looks on us as deluded, bigots, and hatemongers.
Revelation 3, verse nine, says that someday, everyone will know that He loves us. For now, though, we need just remember that we are BLESSED, no matter the circumstances in our lives. We can wait for the rest, for the best is yet to come.
For further study: Ps. 2:12; Ps.32:2; Ps.33:12; Luke 1:48; James 1:12by
Not too long ago, an older gentleman informed my husband about the healing properties of breathing deeply. He said that you don’t need to breathe like this all the time, but taking a few deep breaths periodically throughout the day helps you absorb more oxygen. More oxygen means your body can work better and you’ll feel better both mentally and physically.
The research shows that a steady practice of correct breathing is simply a good way to cope with everyday life: It will increase your energy levels after a tiring day at the office, help you be more alert even without a caffeine fix, and will help you focus better when everything seems to be happening at once. Deep breathing can improve blood circulation so that your bones and muscles get more nutrients, reduce your symptoms of stress, especially when you feel like your heart is racing a mile a minute, and it can relieve pain.
This is some good information, especially for those of us who have a computer at the end of our fingertips for most of the day. We sit crunched over the machine, taking shallow breaths with our diaphragms compacted and our shoulders slumped. But what about the other breathing that is so necessary to our vocation as Christian writers? The Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:25 (NLT) says, “Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”
If we truly are living, working, and communing with the Holy Spirit of God every day, how do we access His power, His comfort, His direction? A few years back, I listened to a speaker talk about Holy Spirit-Breathing. He spoke about the practice of breathing in as we ask the Holy Spirit to take over total control of our lives and then to breathe out all the other things that we’ve placed in that position.
For instance, who makes the decision when you get up in the morning about what you want to accomplish that day? Do you or do you ask the Spirit to direct you or, for those of us who are writers, to direct our words. I love to spend time with my morning devotions before I sit at the computer because I know that the words will flow better and the thought processes will have clarity if I’ve taken a holy breather. However, there are days…
I stumble out of bed, grab a quick cup of coffee, and settle in, even before I’ve gotten dressed. I get bogged down with social networks, bill paying, invoices, and snail mail. The phone rings or the doorbell chimes and I have to scramble to get some clothes on before the caller leaves. That is not a day controlled by the Holy Spirit of God. There is no peace, and certainly no clarity of thought.
Holy Spirit breathing is something we can do no matter where we are. It’s simply acknowledging that the Holy Spirit has the podium. He sits on the throne of your life, not on the footstool. Like breathing deeply, injecting our body with life-saving oxygen, breathing in the Holy Spirit daily, sometimes more than once, refreshes, relaxes and gives us peace beyond our imagination. Let Him lead and the dance will be smoother, more graceful, and your audience will be thrilled.
For further study: Rom.8:14; Gal.5:18; 1 John 3:7by
Life is full of learning, or it had better be, if we want to keep up. Since the Industrial Revolution began, we’ve been on a technological fast-track that, most of the time, boggles the mind. My techie sons know exactly when they’ve lost me. My eyes glaze, not from disinterest but from information overload. Ever felt that way?
Compared to a lot of my friends, I am very computer literate. I use an IPAD regularly, I surf the net, and I’m involved with social networking. I own a website where I post somewhat regularly. Then I listen to the new innovations and want to stick my head in the sand. “No more,” I shout. ”Let me relax in knowing what I do know now without moving me into another whole avenue of brain freeze.” At least to me, that’s what it feels like.
I think it must feel the same for people who have no Christian faith. They understand that there is probably a God out there, somewhere, but they do not understand Him and they certainly can’t understand why anyone would want to be a Christian anyway. They have a limited knowledge of God, but not enough to help them understand.
When they encounter someone who walks with the Holy Spirit, the words they speak, their rationale, everything about them is foreign. And there’s a reason why. In 1 Corinthians 2: 14 (NLT), the Bible says, “People who aren’t spiritual, can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.”
The Holy Spirit of God is our interpreter. He helps us understand and then apply the truth of God’s word because He is the author of scripture. 2 Peter 1:20-21 tells us, “Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.” Do you remember a time when, like a light bulb coming on, you understood a concept for the first time? The Holy Spirit helps us understand the words we read when we read scriptures. Without Him, all seems like a foreign language. We may be able to read it, but the understanding is lost. It doesn’t even sound interesting.
The next verses in 1 Corinthians, talk about the fact that with the Holy Spirit “we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.” When Christ taught concepts like those in the Sermon on the Mount, there were people sitting, listening, who did not understand what He was saying or how He could expect people to do the things He talked about. They knew the words but did not understand the concepts because they did not have the Holy Spirit living within, giving them the mind of Christ.
When Jesus transcended to heaven, He left the Holy Spirit to take His place, to indwell believers so that they could understand, so they could have the fortitude to do the things he asked of them. My son’s brain is wired so he can understand all the new technology. When we have the Holy Spirit living in us, we are wired to long for, and to understand all that Christ has for us, and to want more.
Trying to live as a Christian without acknowledging that the Holy Spirit is a vital part of that walk is to cut off the very part of God that makes life as a Christian conceivable. I want His understanding because mine is limited. Don’t you?
For further study: Acts 8:30; Rom.3:11; Rom.7:15; Rom.15:21; Heb.11:3; 2 Pet. 3:16by
Recently, a Carnival Cruise ship capsized, leaving 11 dead and some still missing. The people, who went on this cruise, left full of joy, expecting an awesome vacation and many moments of relaxation. Instead, family members are left to mourn, and the surviving passengers have had an experience they’d rather forget than remember.
One family I know have had their teenage daughter and granddaughter sequestered through her church, but no one knows why. Another family has a son who’s cut off all ties for the last nine years. A teenager is left destitute because her mother moved in with a new boyfriend who didn’t want a teenager around. Devastating.
These kinds of things happen to us all the time and we do not know how to handle them, what to pray for, if we are a praying soul, or how to make things right. Our world is torn apart when these things happen and we sit stunned, as if hit by a shockwave so intense that it’s rattled the foundations of our soul.
I the book of Romans, chapter 8, verse 26, God tells us that he has provided an intercessor. “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.”(NLT). This is only one of the many functions of the Holy Spirit who lives inside every believer.
We’re hurt, pummeled with grief, and words cannot express what we cannot describe. God knows exactly what we need. The Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf. We feel peace when we could not ask, comfort from within and without, unexplained.
I know you can remember a time when your world was shaken, its foundations almost destroyed. Did you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit or did you think you were all alone in your grief? Did you sit still before the throne of God? Did you hear His voice?
God has built us for relationship, with Him and with other people. He wants us to come to Him when we hurt: when we’re happily celebrating an event in our lives, and when we can’t fathom what is going on. Fall into His arms, seek His face, and know that whatever is going on in your life, He cares.
For further study: Isa.53:12; I Tim.2:1by
Not too long ago, I listened to a TV talk show where guests complained about the treatment they’d received in a variety of evangelical churches. They were in counseling because of it. They related how family members had performed an intervention to bring them out of this cultish atmosphere of guilt, hate, and narrow-mindedness.
The talk show host went on to call evangelical Christians hatemongers, an intolerable group of people who thought themselves better than everyone else. He called for an abolition of such churches. His guests continued to talk about their experiences, relating stories of feeling guilty every time they stepped through the door to their church. Imagine!
For centuries, the work of the Holy Spirit has been disregarded or misinterpreted. Pastors either teach that the third person of our triune God is all-important or they teach that the Holy Spirit is a minor character, not important in the large scheme of things. In John 16, Jesus tells us in verse 7 that He must leave so that He can send us the Counselor. He goes on, in verse 8, to say, “When He comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin, righteousness and judgment.” Does that sound as if the Holy Spirit is a minor character to you?
I believe His work is as important as that of the Father and the Son because He is God, the third person. His work is different, as Jesus explained. When a person seek a counselor, do they seek someone who will tell them only what they want to hear or do they seek someone who will tell them truth? A counselor is intended to speak truth, at least if that counselor is Christian. Sometimes truth hurts as it regards our faults and foibles. The Holy Spirit convicts us of God’s truth, and our feeling of guilt is the result.
Now I, for one, do not think that guilt is a bad thing. Obviously, those people on that talk show thought otherwise. Guilt brings me up short when I’m about to step into a mess again. It shows me that the path I’m on needs altering. It shows me that I need to adjust my thinking to coincide with that of my heavenly Father. And, since guilt is such an uncomfortable feeling, I deal with it post-haste so that I can accept the Father’s forgiveness and move on.
Satan has used guilt in the lives of God’s people to instill defeat, fear, and a sense of worthlessness. God wants to use guilt to train us in righteous living, to transform us, and to give us life abundant. The Holy Spirit, our Counselor, helps us face the truth of our lives. He injects truth where lies abound, and freedom from the tentacles of sin.
Take Him seriously. Acknowledge His power in your life and walk in His mighty counsel. Measure your steps, seek his direction, and thank Him for loving you so much.
For further study: 1 Thess. 1:5; Jude 1:15by