September 11, 2017


(An excerpt from my sermon a couple of weeks ago.)

It was a couple of weeks ago... at the tail end of our long, hard summer when the Lord began lovingly questioning me about my expectations and what I had been allowing to build up around them.

He started to talk with me about the difference between expectations based on past experiences versus expectations based on HOPE and TRUST!

Obviously, He prefers one over the other!

Expectation is defined as a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future. It can be either good or bad. 

But Hope...
  Hope is always FOR...
    ...always positive!

Eric Reeder defines Hope this way: 
“Hope is the unconditional assurance that Fathers’ goodness prevails and it becomes the force of boldness in life.”
Imagine what could happen if we combined our expectations with Hope?

The Bible has a lot to say about Hope and Expectation:
“O Lord of hosts, How blessed and greatly favored is the man who trusts in You [believing in You, relying on You, and committing himself to You with confident hope and expectation].” Psalm 84:12 Amplified
“You will keep in perfect and constant peace the one whose mind is steadfast [that is, committed and focused on You—in both inclination and character], Because he trusts and takes refuge in You [with hope and confident expectation].” Isaiah 26:3 Amplified
“Blessed [with spiritual security] is the man who believes and trusts in and relies on the Lord And whose hope and confident expectation is the Lord.” Jer 17:7 Amplified
“But as for me, I will look expectantly for the LORD and with confidence in Him I will keep watch; I will wait [with confident expectation] for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.” Micah 7:7 Amplified
“Since we have such a [glorious] hope and confident expectation, we speak with great courage…” 2 Cor 3:12 Amplified

Hope and Expectation are SUPPOSED to hang out together, right?  

Hope is good! 

But sometimes it’s our expectations alone that can get us in trouble, right?  They can be unrealistic… perfectionistic... fatalistic… 

Expectations most often are dependent on other peoples' choices and behavior. 

Hope, however, is most often dependent on GOD’s Promises and Provision. 

Hope is eternal, sure --but it is also internal –between you and Him. Expectations are external and tend to rely on outside influences.

Many of us create expectations --for our future, our relationships… ourselves—based on fear or failure due to our past experiences, and we're not even aware of it!

We allow our past to dictate our future… we begin to expect what we already know.

Expectations, when paired with past experience, tend to hold us back.  

Often times, our past experiences are limited to our own limited perspectives and hindsight teaches us that our perspectives are not always an honest picture of what really happened! But in the moment, we form expectations out of hurts and disappointments and we wonder why the past keeps repeating itself or why our prayers are being hindered.

But when we invite Hope in to our Expectations, we align our hearts and thoughts and faith with what God says is possible (read: anything) and we begin to dare to dream for greater things! 

We begin to align our hopes with His Promises and when we do that, we activate our faith and position ourselves for breakthrough!

Our pastor said not too long ago in a sermon, 
“If we become a people who EXPECT the Yes of God, we become a people who EXPERIENCE the Yes of God!”
When we allow our POSITIVE experiences to influence our expectations more than our NEGATIVE ones, Hope comes flooding in!

Steve Backlund says it this way:
“Our hope levels are indicators of whether we are believing truth or lies.”
So how is your Hope?  

What are you believing for that requires a little crazy faith?

We all have had expectations go unmet and it results in frustration and being offended or disgruntled… with our spouse, with friends, with ourselves, --even with God (if we are real enough to admit it!) I read an article recently that said “Unmet expectations will be at the root of most of your unhappiness in life.” Ouch, right?

The Internet credits Socrates for saying: “What screws us up most in life is the picture in our heads of how it's supposed to be.” (But I’m not convinced that is proper credit. But the quote is true. It’s our preconceived ideas of how things should play out.)

Here’s the thing: I don’t think expectations are bad. 
I think they are good… I think they are necessary –but they are healthier and more empowering when paired with HOPE!

I think in many circumstances, if we raise our expectations –not to unattainable measures or near perfection, but simply by expecting the best –people will rise to the occasion! When we expect better behavior – from ourselves and those around us, it’s amazing how we can shift that atmosphere with Hope and Expectation!

While in prayer one day recently, I felt the Lord say “When your past experience and your current expectation match up –but Truth is not in the center of them, it makes for a long, hard season!” 

I immediately thought of Hosea, Chapter 2:14-15
“Therefore, behold, I will allure Israel And bring her into the wilderness, And I will speak tenderly to her [to reconcile her to Me]. Then I will give her her vineyards from there, And make the Valley of Achor a door of hope and expectation [anticipating the time when I will restore My favor on her]. And she will sing there and respond as in the days of her youth As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.” 
When I think of the ‘days of my youth’ as a New Believer …Man, did I have faith! I prayed about anything and the answers were Yes and Amen! My hope and expectation were brimming over and spilling out everywhere!

I want to encourage you: What you believe actually affects you and if you are EXPECTING with Hope for breakthrough or change or answered prayers… it will happen! 

But the Valley of Achor? Yeah – that is often translated the Valley of Trouble. No one wants that.

In Lamentations 3, we are told:
“God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God. It’s a good thing when you’re young to stick it out through the hard times. When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face. The “worst” is never the worst. Why? Because the Master won’t ever walk out and fail to return.” 
None of us want trouble, but trouble is promised to all of us! (John 16:33 – but that verse goes on to say: “but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]”

It’s OK to feel disappointed in God and still believe that He is good – at the same time. I really believe that the root of much depression is stuffing and denying our emotions. When we do this – it opens WIDE the door of Shame! The shame that comes in is more dangerous than any of the actual emotions we were denying in the first place!

But friends,
  He doesn’t want us to fake it!  

He can sense and feel the walls and He doesn’t want the distance or the pretending!  He knows when we are not fine!

Y'all know that this summer was tough for us.  Full of heavy and hard... but I purposed in my heart years ago never to numb my way through my days or simply allow myself to just go through the motions in life. So I had to get real - with God, with myself, with others close to me.  I had to transparent and honest on the good days and the anything but good days, too!

I wanted to include a short excerpt from my personal journal to help wrap this up and get my point across:

"I was telling My Honey that I realized it had been over a month since I spent time with God --need and agenda free.

I managed to read a little Bible (almost) every day, but it was Checked Off... not Chewed On.

I prayed all day, every day --but it was More Monologue, and Less Listening.

I found myself listening at time --but it was out of Desperation and Want, not Desire and Worship.

So I blocked out an afternoon and rather than binging Netflix (#notthattheresanythingwrongwiththat) I stacked some books, and a journal, and cranked up some music... and I waited.

I silenced my questions and my 'but-I-want-to-know's and I waited.

I closed my eyes and breathed in deep... and forced my thoughts to slow and to still!

...And I felt His Presence, but it felt both Near and Far Away.

And my heart broke a little wider... for HE is never the one who wants space and distance between us.

That's us. That's me.  We are the ones who push Him away and hold Him close --at arms length.

He desires to be closer than our breath and to live beneath our skin.  And so over and over and over, we invite Him back in --not knowing we even kicked Him out again..."

I think we need to pray in to the willingness to be vulnerable with God and with each other! 

Vulnerability is the key to overcoming! 

Even though we think it leads to weakness, it really leads to strength!

When we willingly lay down our expectations that are chained to past failures and we pick up HOPE instead, we will find faith arising and breakthroughs and answered prayers are on the way!  

And we could all use a little more of those, right?




  1. Courageous a friend said the other day. And as our friend Susan says, hope changes things! Indeed it does!

  2. #hopechangeseverything but I think you know that!


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