Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Jesus Exceeding Our Exoectations

It was all too familiar.

Here she was walking the stony rugged path outside the city gate once again. A familiarity she never wanted, never asked for but yet she was retracing those same steps that she had taken before. A trip that seemed to had only been yesterday.

Just like the last time she kept her eyes averted to the ground. She could sense all the people around her but at the same time felt completely alone. She could barely even hear the professional mourners over the cries of her heart.

“What now?” “How could this have happened?”  “What will I do to survive?” Questions coming one after another, invading her thoughts as she tried desperately to keep her knees from buckling.

With tears spilling down her cheeks faster than she could wipe them away with a cloth that lost its dryness days ago, she tried to focus on the shoulders of the men walking in front of her.  In fact, there were two columns of men walking together, side by side. These men were carefully placing their steps as to not mishandle the precious cargo atop their shoulders.  Each sharing the weight of the poles that made up the stretcher like coffin upon which the shrouded body of her son-her only son lay. Not only was this her dearly loved son but since her husband had died he was her protector and her provider. Now he too was gone.

The further outside the city she went the more numb she became. She barely noticed the group walking towards the gate about to pass her.  The cultural traditions held that when one passes a funeral procession condolences were to be made. This would be no different. For a moment she was able to pull herself out of the dense fog within her head.  She could tell there was a buzz of excitement within the oncoming group.  

What it was she didn’t know and frankly she didn’t care. 

Her world had stopped and that was all she really knew.

Once the group was close enough she lifted her eyes just barely to see the man walking ahead of the rest. There was something different about him. He wasn’t like the other mourners. As her eyes met his briefly she could tell he held true compassion for her. He came close and whispered to her, “Do not weep?”  Then he did the most unusual thing. He reached for the stretcher carrying her son’s body. The small amount of air that was left in her fragile body leapt out in a gasp. If this man touched the body he would be deemed unclean. “Why would he do that?” she asked herself.

As the man touched the side of the open air coffin, those carrying it stood still. She couldn’t help but draw close. She had to know what was happening.  It was almost like everything around her hushed and then she heard the strangest words coming from the man. Her head began spinning. “Did he just say what I thought he said? Did he just say, “Young man, I say to you rise?”

She stared at the man for what seemed forever then slowly turned and looked at where the body of her son lay. “What was she seeing? Was she dreaming?  Was that her son was sitting up and talking?” At that moment she could no longer keep her knees under her.

More questions bombarded her. “In her stumble, had she fallen asleep? Was this a strange dream? Was this man she kept hearing others call Jesus really standing in front of her? Who was that he has his arm around? Is that really her son?”

She reached timidly out to the hand beckoning for hers and when they met…when real live flesh met tears and laughter burst from her.  It was her son. He was truly alive.

The widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17) only expected the obvious that day.  She expected to follow a procession to the cemetery. She expected to bury her son into the cold ground. She expected to walk that lonely path back through the gates of the city to her house. She expected life to be hard and sad from that point on.

But what she didn’t expect…she didn’t expect Jesus.

Jesus walked up and exceeded her expectations.

Friend you may not be walking in a literal funeral procession but you might be like I am, standing on a stony path watching that dream encased in a bubble wafting away on the slightest breeze.  Maybe you also feel like I have, like you are standing drenched in a muddy puddle from the wave that doused the passion that once burned like a raging fire in your heart.

Maybe your only expectations are to bury those dreams and passions in the cold earth with life never being the same again.

 Maybe you are not sure what to expect.

God has me on the journey of expectation. He is telling me not to be walking down a stony path with limited expectations.

 I have felt God ask me “Are you expecting Jesus?”

God is tugging at my heart to expect the arrival of Jesus and to be ready for him to reach out and touch that which I once thought was dead and rejoice when He exceeds my expectations.

Psalm 145:19 says, “He will fulfill the desires of those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him.”

Oh friend, expectantly wait for His arrival and don’t be surprised when what He does totally exceeds your expectations.

Edwin Louis Cole says, “Expectancy is the atmosphere of miracles.”

I can’t wait, can you?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Expecting His Return

Turn on any type of media and you will eventually hear worldly news.
Wars, bombings, beheadings, natural disasters…the world is moaning for Christ return…and whether the people of the world know or not, creation is expecting it!
Romans 8:19-20 says, “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”

In the Garden of Eden when Satan whispered lies, Adam and Eve made a choice that changed the world. Not only did mankind have consequences placed upon them but so did all creation.  Everything had fallen victim to sin with decomposition and decay finding its way into the grand scheme of the deceiver.

Satan orchestrated a plan to separate that which God said was very good from the presence of God himself however as time begin to march across God’s Kingdom calendar the return of Christ to reclaim and restore has been greatly anticipated.  With each passing year and day we see signs of a “crying out” for the King of King’s return
But what about us, modern day Christians are we expecting His return?  

As we sit in comfortable homes in a wonderful country that has not yet seen escalated persecution, how are we watching with intensity for His return? 

Do we scroll pass on our news feeds about the persecution that is being played out on the screens from the other side of the world not letting it touch our lives?
How can we earnestly expect His return? 

Matthew 24:36 tells us that no one knows the day or the hour so what can we be doing?

First we must take His return seriously by digging into God’s word and learning it.  We need to be prepared in and out of season to give an answer for our faith.  We also need to be able to discern what is true and lines up with God’s word.  If we haven’t spent time studying then we will not know lies that Satan is now whispering in our ears.

Second, we should not turn a blind eye to the news of the world and the persecution that is going on.  We should seek to let the reports prick our hearts into the action of prayer.  There are people across living this globe that do not have the luxury of walking into a house of God or to email or text a prayer request.  We can take up this mantel and be prayer warriors for them. 

Pray that they:

Stand strong in their faith

To live the joy of the Lord before their persecutors.

To feel the presence of Jesus

To recall the Words of the Lord for comfort and strength

To know their suffering is not in vain.

Third we must be bold and tell others about the salvation of the Lord. 
God’s word tells us that every tribe and every nation will be represented in singing before the Lord in heaven. Currently, not every tribe and nation has heard the salvation message of Jesus Christ. But with good focused strategy and faithful believers we can finish the task in our lifetime.  You may be thinking, “I can’t go” but have you ever considered that they person you share the gospel with just might be the one that the Lord calls to go to that tribe in the Amazon jungle or that remote nation in Southeast Asia?

William Carey said, “Expect great things from God, Attempt great things for God”

Friends we must grow to earnestly expect His return. 

Father, help us to expect your return in an urgent manner.  Help us to not turn a deaf ear or a blind eye to our brothers and sisters across the world that are suffering for you.  Create in us a passion for your Word, a voice that cries out in prayer and a boldness to tell others about you.  Lord, help us to step up our mission and expect you.  Lord, come quickly!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Expect His Movement

The first three times the answer was still the same but his master sent him again.

Four, five and six.  He ran out to the overlook and yet the same thing…nothing was happening.

You wonder if the servant thought his master had gotten it wrong.  It had not rained in years and the sky was void of clouds but now his master had said he heard the sound of abundance of rain.  Once again for the seventh time, Elijah told his servant to go look toward the sea. 

This time something was different. There was a cloud as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea. (1 Kings 18:41-46)

Seven times he sent his servant out to seek God’s movement. Six times the answer was no but on that seventh trip things changed. 

We can learn so much from Elijah about expecting God and His movement. Elijah prayed for the fulfillment of his request earnestly.  He didn't give up the first few times that the servant returned with a negative answer.  He remained diligent.   Elijah believed that his prayer was answered before the answer came.  WOW!  What faith!

Friend, have you given up on an answer from God?  

What if the servant said he wouldn't go out to look after the third time?  Would he have missed the miracle of seeing God’s movement?

The same goes for many others that are documented in God’s Word. 

What if the Israelites didn't leave Egypt? Would they have missed the parting of the Red Sea?  

What if they only marched around the city of Jericho five times? Would they have missed the walls come tumbling down? 

What if the Apostles refused to return to Jerusalem after Jesus ascended into Heaven? Would they have missed the movement of the Holy Spirit?

 James 5: 16-18 states: “…The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth produced its fruit.”

One of my favorite parts about this story of Elijah is when the servant reported the cloud he girded up his clothes and took off running.  He knew what was about to happen….the rains were coming and come they did.

If you are waiting for a movement of God, I implore you to not give up.  Take on a posture of prayer, seek and expect God to move.  Start looking for that one small cloud.  It is coming my friend, it you don’t lose heart.
Expect God’s movements.  Pray!  Look! And the DO!

Father, retrain our eyes to look for even the smallest signs of your movement.  Help us to be so diligent in our prayers that we have the confidence in your power before you even move.  

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Expect Distractions

Hebrews 10:23 says “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful”

“Life just isn't fair” I remember saying those words as a teenager and yes have even said them as I have become more seasoned as an inhabitant on this big blue ball.

We often come to expect things to be perfect and fair. When life isn't as we dream it would be we often become misguided and tie our expectations onto the wrong things of this world.  

In doing so we end up putting our hope and anticipation into something that doesn't have eternal blessings.  We get to the point that we are distracted and look towards something other than Jesus to give us a hope.

My sons are big “Lord of the Ring” fans and we have watched these movies over and over.  There are so many examples that can relate to our Christian walk within these stories by JRR Tolkien.  One is the main object in the story…The Ring.  The purpose of the group was to get the ring back to its origins where it was formed and destroy it.  Yet time and time again one character would place their expectations on the ring itself instead of the purpose for the journey.  This distraction would lead to heartache and sorrow.

We each have a mission here on earth to accomplish for God but Satan wants to distract us.  He knows that we are no longer available to him but he does realize that he can sway our attention from our intended mission.  In comes the method of distractions. 

My boys laugh and say that my thoughts can squirrel around jumping here and there at any given moment.  They know that anything can distract me and my thought process at any given moment.  You know what? So does Satan.  He has an incredible curve ball that he likes to throw my way to get me off kilter. 

We need to be diligent to find a focal point to keep those distractions at bay.  When we expect that distractions will come, most likely during the times we are impacting our mission field; we can deter and stay single minded.

One way that has helped me remain focused and not distracted is scripture memorization.  I used to say I just couldn't memorize scripture but found myself memorizing words to songs and lines to movies.  I realized that I was listening to lies about scripture memory.  I now have a spiral of index cards in front of me prompting me to hide God’s word in my heart.

How are you keeping the distractions in their place?

What is your focal point to keep you on mission?

Father, Help us to remain focused on you. Realizing that distractions will come but you are our true North, a lamp unto our path and guide to our feet.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Silent Expectations

“My soul, wait silently for God alone. For my expectation is from Him” Psalm 62:5

Have you ever felt like a spinning top?  I know I have!  Life seems to be spinning right along then wham! I am off kilter and knocked for a loop.  Even though tops can be colorful and festive in appearance when that string is wound and then pulled you find out a lot about it.  One minute it is spinning with such precision that it is beautiful but then it evidently hits something or runs out of its own power and it starts to falter beginning to wobble and teeter out of control. 

Can you relate?

King David could I am sure.  

More times than you can count he was having someone or something come up against him. Even at one point his own son Absalom turned against him (2 Samuel 16-18).  But what I find comforting about King David, a man after God’s own heart, was that he learned to silently wait and expect God. 

Now that’s a lesson I want to learn!

When frustration and chaos hit, David attached his rope, remember our cord of attachment with expectation from yesterday, around what he knew.  He knew that God was his rock, his strength, his defense and when we like David wait and expect, looking in God’s direction we too will see His salvation.

Oh there will be times we must weather the storms alone.  Times when we will feel abandoned and defenseless, just like King David did, but we can grab hold of that rope attached to God and feel the tautness knowing that what it is attached it is immovable. It is then when we are securely anchored.

Wait, expect and look for God because all power belongs to Him!

Psalm 62
To the Chief Musician. To Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.
Truly my soul silently waits for God;
 From Him comes my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
 I shall not be greatly moved.
How long will you attack a man?
 You shall be slain, all of you,
 Like a leaning wall and a tottering fence.

They only consult to cast him down from his high position;
 They delight in lies;
 They bless with their mouth,
 But they curse inwardly. Selah
 My soul, wait silently for God alone,
 For my expectation is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
 I shall not be moved.
In God is my salvation and my glory;
 The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God.
Trust in Him at all times, you people;
 Pour out your heart before Him;
 God is a refuge for us. Selah
Surely men of low degree are a vapor,
 Men of high degree are a lie;
 If they are weighed on the scales,
 They are altogether lighter than vapor.
Do not trust in oppression,
 Nor vainly hope in robbery;
 If riches increase,
 Do not set your heart on them.
 God has spoken once,
 Twice I have heard this:
 That power belongs to God.
Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy;
 For You render to each one according to his work.

Father, teach us to silently wait in expectation of You and your might works.  Help us to let go of frustrations and chaos and feel the tautness of You at the end of the rope as our Rock and Salvation.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Cord Of Attachment

There she stood gazing at the window, not really looking out but just at the frame that made up the hole in the wall where the two men recently descended from her home.  

Clutching to the line of scarlet cord that one of the men placed in her hands with specific instructions, Rahab finally found what she was looking for, a place to secure the cord in hopes of rescue when the Israelites returned.

In the Book of Joshua chapter 2 we find the story of Rahab and the Israelite spies and this is where we find the most interesting Hebrew word for expect.  The word Tiqvah (Strongs 8615 pronounced tik-vaw’) which means something yearned for, to anticipate eagerly, something for which one waits.  This word comes from the verb qavah which means to look hopefully in a particular direction. The original meaning was to stretch like a rope.

So here in the story of Rahab we find in her hands a cord of expectation and hope.

In Joshua chapter 2 verse 18 is states: “thou shalt bind this line (hope, expectation) of scarlet thread (cord) in the window which you let us down…”

Then in verse 21 we read, “she bound the scarlet cord (the tiqvah- a line of hope in expectation of salvation) to the window.”

Rahab had already told the spies she knew who the Lord was and what He had done for their people. Now she was tying a scarlet cord to her window waiting and longing for the Lord to send the men to rescue her in His time.  She was ready and looking for their rescue of her and her family. Even at the same time, she was longingly and expectantly looking in the direction of the One who would be her real salvation. 

For I had a feeling she was a little like Psalmist in Psalm 121, “I will lift my eye to the hills where does my help come from? My help comes for the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”

Don’t you simply love the symbolism in the Bible? The cord was not only a symbol of her expectation of immediate rescue but also of the rescue from sin by the Savior Jesus Christ.

Maybe you are in a situation where you need refocus and to get to the place of expectation.  

Maybe you need to find your own tiqvah, a cord to tie with expectation.

Oh my friend, you may feel as though you are surrounded by heart melting circumstances just as the people of Jericho when the Israelites marched across the desert towards them (Joshua 2:11) but when you step out in faith like Rahab and tie on to God’s hope expecting Him in His way you will always find Him faithful.

Father, teach us to attach ourselves to you with a cord of expectation.  Let us see your faithfulness even when we have fear surrounding us and we need your rescue.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Living to Expect

Have you ever had a common word, a word you have heard more times than you can count,  all the sudden make you sit up straight and listen?  A word that once you look more closely at makes your eyes grow wide and your lips part as you realize your chin is dropping to the ground?  A word that just might have become a game changer in the way you look at it ever again?

For me this happened recently with the word EXPECT.  As the end of 2014 drew to a close I was struggling with life situations.  I was at a quandary as to how I was to proceed with 2015 regarding a passion and purpose.  Frankly things just seemed ho hum and I didn't know how or where to place my next step so I began praying for God to show me a word to study or something that would direct me or even restore a passionate life.

Not knowing where to really begin I grabbed my Bible…OK I know that is where you always begin but I didn't know how to “hear” which word God had for me.  I turned to the concordance in the back and started reading aloud the words found there.  Starting in the A’s I would read a word then jotted it down and thinking halfheartedly, “Well I could do this one.” 

Page after page, I sat jotting down words that were safe in my mind.  Sitting at my kitchen table I was combing through the alphabet…A…B…C and so on until I reached the end of E.  The word Expect struck a chord.  I tried to flip the page and go on to F but it was like God wouldn't let me pass that word.  I know then that God’s word for me was EXPECT. 

Expect: a verb meaning to look forward to; regard as likely to happen; anticipate the occurrence or the coming of.

I know what you might be thinking here…”Um… Cynthia, this is no news alert. We know that definition.”  I agree!  I knew that meaning as well but what I didn't know was the Hebrew and Greek meanings of the words that were translated into English as expect.

When reading the original meanings of the word I sensed a deeper pulling of the words. Within the definitions came the gripping words of hope, intense anticipation, apprehension, earnest expectation, wait, that thing I long for and looking hopefully in a particular direction.  But the one that struck me odd until I dug further was “a cord as an attachment.”  Where in the world did that come from and how did it fit?

Over the next few weeks we will look at this word expect. Digging in and hoping to find more of a reason to expect.

Are you expecting something?  

Have you given up expecting something from God?

Edwin Louis Cole says, “Expectancy is the atmosphere of miracles.”

Father, I pray that you will teach us to expect you more, to place all our hope quietly before you.  For everything that we long for is in you, O God, alone.