expectations = pain

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about happiness and of course it’s opposite unhappiness. I’m interested in writing about this because I think that these two things are a parallel to the twin forces that battle constantly in my mind. I am referring of course to Worthless and Worthwhile. I general I would say that the former equates to unhappiness while the latter to happiness. My mind wanders as I consider this idea and I wonder just what does Worthless do to my thinking that would lead me be unhappy. As I thought about this one word kept coming back to me over and over again. Expectations. Let’s explore this together ok?

Just what is an expectation anyway? It’s a strong belief that something will happen or that someone will or should achieve something. I was preaching out of the book of Romans a few weeks ago and this very thing came up. I asked people to think about something that would immediately set them off. What button could be pushed that would immediately make them angry or upset. As an example I told them that I expect my devices to function all the time every time and that when they don’t I find it very difficult to keep my composure, especially if I am alone. For example if I want to weed eat in my yard and I can’t get the weed eater to start I will have a temper tantrum and rage quit my chores completely. I expect the device to work and I expect to be able to use it to complete my chore. An unfulfilled expectation has altered my mood for the worse. A silly example but you get the point.

I think it is quite natural to feel disappointed when your expectations are not met, and I’m not suggesting that expectations are in and of themselves bad or to be avoided. In the above example my expectation was quite realistic and pretty much in my control. The true danger lies in expectations that are either unrealistic or out of your control or possibly both. When your expectations fall into these categories you really are asking for trouble. I want to focus right now on what I think are the places where these expectations are the most damaging to our overall state of unhappiness. That is in our relationships with ourselves or with others.

I’ve established that I think failed expectations open the door to unhappiness. I think that it follows that expectations that are unrealistic are by definition going to be unfulfilled. The question now is how can we apply this knowledge to our lives so that we can avoid this source of unhappiness.

Be honest with yourself. If you are unhappy check your expectations to see if they are realistic. Are you asking to much of yourself or of those around you? Are you responding to failed expectations with mercy and forgiveness or with anger and frustration? Do you have the same feelings over the same failed expectations over and  answers to these questions will help you understand better your condition and help you put together a plan to regain happiness.

There is one more thing I’d like to tell you about today. Definitions usually include a handy list of synonyms and expectations is no exception. There are two that I’d like to focus on right now: assumption and hope. Both synonyms for expectations and at the same time wildly different. One of them is toxic and the other a source of life. When you assume something you are laying claim to it. You are taking ownership when it’s not yours. I have made assumptions in my life often to my detriment. Hope on the other hand is something that is nearly essential to life. Hopelessness is one of the worst places a person can find themself.

If your expectations are founded in assumptions you will probably find yourself disappointed more often than not but when you hope even if you fail you can continue on because hope is one of those things that gives life and strength rather than sap it away.

I pray that you will keep your expectations realistic. I pray that you will face failure with mercy and forgiveness. Finally I pray that you will live a life of hope and leave your assumptions behind.


short answer to a hard question

I saw a meme the other day that made me stop and think. It went something like this.

The key to happiness

Let those around you do what they need to so they can be happy

Do for yourself what you need to and be happy

Mind your own business 

This provoked some thought in me. Some questions came to mind. What does this mean? Can it really be this simple? Where does unhappiness come from? What do you mean “mind your own business”? I want to pick at this a little and see what bubbles out.

What does this mean? To begin with I think it means that happiness is individualized. That happiness is a state that each person must decide for him or herself. I don’t know if any two people would give the same answer to the question “what is happiness”? In broad strokes you might find similarities but the particulars would likely be different possibly very different.

As a simple example there are many people that you could play hip hop music for and it would please them and make them feel happy. I would not be one of those people. But who am I to judge somebody because they have different tastes than I do. If someone goes against your preferences and it makes you unhappy you’re the one that needs to make some adjustments. It’s ok to dislike a particular thing but don’t let that ok dislike to crossover into dislike of a person.

Most of the last few chapters of Romans is devoted to these issues. Basically (very basically) Paul tells us that in regards to unsure things don’t argue with people. Further don’t let your differences in these matters lead to judgement.

Where does unhappiness come from? This is a loaded question. In the context of this particular writing I would say it comes from a couple of things. Maybe in another blog I’ll get more deeply into the idea of unhappiness, what it is, what to do about it.

Two things come to mind in regards to this particular meme however. First is unmet expectations or to high of expectations. The second is comparison. I can’t tell you which is worse because both are Spirit crushing and will lead to a state of unhappiness.

Probably the most damaging expectation is expecting someone to be like you. Yet I think it is the habit of the unhappy person to do just that. Expecting someone to think like you, or agree with you, or even like you is a toxic place to put yourself. It is an easy trap to fall into though so be wary of it. If there are people in your life that “make me unhappy” maybe it’s because you expect them to be like you instead of letting them be like themselves. There is only one you after all.

Comparision is the other road that will lead to unhappiness. We’ve all heard the old saying that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. That is a warning about the danger of comparing yourself to somebody else. Remember that to a lot of other people you are the other side. This is especially true now in the age of social media. We get to peek into people’s lives and see just how awesome they are forgetting that peeking rarely tells the whole story.

Mind your own business is probably pretty good advice. Jesus tells Peter to mind his own business and follow his own instructions. Paul repeatedly tells us to mind our own business and live peaceably with each other. We are warned over and over about the danger of gossip and meddling in the affairs of others.

Are you unhappy? If not great go live your life you are blessed. If you are have you done any of the things above? Are you punishing yourself with impossible expectations? Do you compare yourself to idealized versions of others around you?

It is my prayer that you realize that real happiness begins with loving yourself. Be your own best friend.



the pain of wasted pain

Have you ever felt like a fool? Have you ever had your world turned upside down? I’d bet that most of you have. I know that i have for sure. It’s a pretty bad feeling isn’t it? I know for me I kind of wobble between slight dizziness to queasy feelings in the pit of my stomach. The mind races as you try to make sense of what is happening and you have to deal with that pesky fight or flight thing to boot. Sometimes it happens slowly like the proverbial frog in the pot. Other times it happens all of a sudden like a sucker punch you didn’t see coming. The worst though is when it happens and you realize that you should have known all along that something wasn’t right and that you could have at least tried to prevent it.

No matter how it comes though your life will not go back to being the same as it was after an event of this kind. You have a window of opportunity to respond and how you do that will critically affect all of the people involved. Try to be thoughtful about the situation don’t trust your gut as it is likely that it was your gut that got you into this spot in the first place. Don’t go to your standard playbook either because that’s another place where you’ll find you’ve missed the mark. Get creative but don’t be foolish and for heaven’s sake don’t bury your head in the sand and ignore it.

I look in my Bible and I read about many moments where people had to respond to a quickly changing situation, to situations that were desperate or seemingly hopeless. Thankfully the reactions we can read about vary from the spectacularly successful to the completely disasterous so there is a lot we can learn by studying them.

We can read about Saul who was battling the Philistines and was hard pressed and looking for help and advice. So he turned to a medium to speak to the dead for him. It didn’t work out for him. Later on we read about Hezekiah when the city of Jerusalem was being besieged. He went and prayed about it. Things went a lot better for him than they did for Saul.  Over and over we read about people who trusted their own counsel that fell while those that trusted God were successful.

Be mindful though of this. In personal situations, in times of personal distress you certainly ought to pray and seek God’s advice. Look for the power of the Holy Spirit to help you through your trial, but do something with the knowledge He gives you. In your own life prayer without action is powerless. If you pray for change but are unwilling to actually do the work of changing you will fail. God wants to help, he wants you to get through whatever is happening to you. He will never abandon you to your own devices but he expects you to participate in the experience. But not only that he expects you to learn from it, to grow from it, and to be able to use it to help others that may go through something like it. With God no experience is ever wasted if you are willing to learn.

Sometimes failure and pain are the very best teachers. I pray for you that when you experience these things that you will turn to Him for guidance and empowerment, I pray that you will put action to the answers that you get. I pray that you will seek out those that may have been through what you are going through and allow their experience to help you. I pray that you will be able to put your pain to good use on the other side of it because you will get there.

He doesn’t need you but we do

I lead an evening service at the church I attend. I habe been doing it for several years now. I’ve taught my through the books of James and Jeremiah. I taught a nice series on great prayers in the Bible, at least I thought it was nice. I did a series on Extreme Faith.

We get together on most Sunday nights at 6 PM and sing a few hymns out of the old hymnals that have been there since Gutenberg ran his printing press. Ok they’re not that old but you get the idea. After that I preach for 30-40 minutes, we pray and dismiss. It’s a very typical baptist Sunday evening service. We started it because there was a demand for a traditional type of service in the church. Despite the so called demand I have to say attendance has been consistently abysmal.

This has been one of the fiercest battlegrounds in my life between Worthless and Worthwhile. Regular readers will know that the struggle between thee two,has touched every aspect of my life and that one of the reasons for this blog is in response to this war. It’s a way for me to actively participate in my own mind. I have had to continually make myself do the work of preparing for this Sunday night service. Worthless has been relentless in his pressure to quit and if I were to measure success by attendance I would.

I have come to an understanding though that all of the work of being prepared is not for those that attend but rather for me. Yes if you choose to be there I believe that you will be blessed by the teaching. I know that I have become a better teacher over the years that I’ve been doing this. But regardless of whether you come or don’t I am learning more and more both about myself and God.

The series I’m in right now is the book of Romans. This has been a very long series as you can imagine. It seems like just about every verse contains some life changing power. It has been extremely powerful for me. I have become a better preacher and a better student as a result of this study. I have reached chapter 12 and of course in God’s kingdom the timing of reaching this chapter has been perfect.

I have been able to see the transformation that God has led me through by the power of the Holy Spirit. I have been led to examine the spiritual gifts that I have been given and evaluate whether or not I am using those gifts in a way that is useful to the kingdom. I understand better that the gifts that I have are not for me but for those around me. If I’m not using them as intended I’m not really hurting God, he doesn’t really need my help after all. No if I’m not using them I’m hurting you. Let that sink in for a minute.

Every believer has been given spiritual gifts. Those gifts are for the benefit of the people around you. They are for the benefit of the church. The church is the body of Christ. Your gifts are the way you participate in the proper functioning of the body. If you are not using the gifts that you have been given you are hurting the people that need you the most. If you take your gift and go home you are abandoning those that need you.

Youre not abandoning God, you can’t really do that. You are abandoning us.


A good farmer knows what to grow

Let’s talk about music for a minute. I mean the blog is called prayers and power chords after all. If you don’t know what either of those things are leave a comment and I’ll teach you.

When I listen to recorded music I have a particular kind of thing that I like to listen to. I can and do listen to a variety of music styles but there are particular genres that I prefer over others. There are also kinds of music that I don’t particularly care to listen to for whatever reason. I talking here about recorded music not a live performance.

Listening to recorded music is a lot different to participating in a live event. Think about it for a minute and follow along. When you are at a live performance of music you are a participant. As a participant you will get out of the performance exactly what you put into it. If you have decided that I am not going to s experience and I am not going to put any effort into it then guess what, you won’t.

Let me give you a couple of examples. A few years ago I went to a club in Chicago where there was a jazz singer and her small band performing. I don’t particularly like that kind of music and don’t listen to it. I could have decided that there was no way I was going to like her performance and so,have been miserable. Instead I bought in to the performance put energy into it and so was rewarded with a great experience. I don’t remember what her name was and it doesn’t matter because I wouldn’t buy the recording but I have a great memory of something amazing that I will never forget.

Not only will your attitude in participating affect you and your level of reward from the experience but it will also have an impact on the people around you. Why would you want your bad attitude make other people feel bad too? Don’t be that person who messes things up for the people around you. You’re there you might as well get into it.

As a performer of sorts I can attest to the truth of the idea that the audience is participating at all times. If that participation is energetic, or thoughtful, or disgruntled it affects the entire performance. As performers it is our responsibility to be properly prepared so I am not talking about a poor performance here. That’s a different story, but hey if you’re at a music recital for ten year olds you expect a few sour notes right so give those guys a break.

So why am I talking about this you might be asking. It’s called reaping and sowing folks. It’s a law that can’t be broken or escaped from and it applies to a lot more than musical performances. It touches every aspect of your life. It’s so pervasive that it even crosses over into the lives of those that are around you. Just about everything that you do is planting a seed of some kind and a lot of times you have no idea when you might have to harvest that thing. Plant good seeds folks so that your harvest will be fruitful not miserable. Remember that your crop affects the people around you.

Let’s go back to music for a second. That person next to you may have had a terrible week. She may really need to escape for a little while. Do you want to be the one next to her with the sour face rolling your eyes or do you want to be the one standing and singing and just enjoying the moment? She may need your help to make that escape.

Dear reader I pray that you understand how in control of your life you can be by getting this idea. Be a good farmer. Be a hero.

the miracle of not needing a miracle

I want to talk to you a little bit about prayer today. I’m going to try to be reasonable but I may come across as a bit of a Pentecostal. That’s not to say that Pentecostals are unreasonable but sometimes they are misunderstood. I’m not into the prosperity gospel or  one of those name it and claim it types either. Stick with me and I think you’ll get my point though.

You are probably familiar with the phrase: “it’s not what you know but who.”

I’ve heard this saying many times over the years. Sometimes it’s used as a put down against somebody that got something that was desired by another. Sometimes I’ve heard it used as a reminder that there are times that a relationship is more important than an education or a particular kind of knowledge. When we use it it will undoubtedly stir up some kind of emotion or reaction.

So how does this relate to prayer? That’s a good question.

So can we agree that prayer is talking to God? That’s what I believe it is. There are a lot of different ways to pray but in the end they are all ways for us to get our thoughts and feelings and needs expressed to Him. While we are praying (talking to God) we are building a relationship with Him. I believe this is an important part of prayer this relationship building. While we pray we ought to find our will coming into alignment with His. The more we do this the stronger the relationship will be. I think this I the reason we are told over and over to be in constant prayer. But don’t do all the talking. I’ll talk about that in another post.

I want you to understand how important this relationship building is. I have a lot of opportunities to pray with and for many people. All to often when people come for prayer they have waited until the last minute. Many times people have come to me asking for me to pray for somebody that has been diagnosed with some terrible condition that will likely lead if not to that person’s death at least to some catastrophic problems or side effects. They come asking me to pray for healing or salvation or both. I pray as requested but sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to have been praying before things got so bad.

I guess what I’m saying is don’t wait until things are going sideways to pray about something. If you’re healthy talk to God about that. Thank Him for it and ask that you continue to stay healthy. That way when you are feeling bad you’ve established a relationship and have something to talk about. Build some momentum in your prayer life and you will see more victories. Victory builds faith which is key to effective prayer. Remember to that the glory for answered prayer needs to go to the right place. If you are praying for good health and taking vitamin C don’t tell people that you’re healthy because of the vitamin but give the glory to God for the answered prayers.

My prayer for you today is that you begin building a better relationship with the one that matters most. Let Him provide for you in all the little ways. It really is better to never need a miracle than to rely on one.

malice, mercy, and vengeance oh my

One of my favorite parts of scripture is Matthew chapter 5. This is the beginning of the sermon on the mount. It begins with what we know as the beatitudes. If you’re not familiar with it I suggest that you go and get a bible and check it out. In them Jesus gives what could be seen as a manual for blessing. As in blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth. I don’t know about you but I need more blessing in my life so when I am studying the Bible I am often looking for these kind of instructions.

These beatitudes also apply a little bit of the law of reaping and sowing. For example blessed are those that mourn for they will be comforted. So there we see that when we sow mourning we reap comfort. That’s good being comforted in grief is nice but honestly I’d rather not mourn to much.

But read a little further and we find this awesome verse.

Blessed are the merciful for they will obtain mercy.

That to me is one of the very best promises in the Bible. Let me explain the way I see this. I’m blessed (a good thing) for being merciful (another good thing) and so I will be shown mercy (yet another good thing). The promise of this verse is what I like to call the trifecta of awesome.

We know that living in a state of blessedness is a great place to be. Surpassing providence to reach blessedness should be a goal for every Christian. God’s providential care is what every human being has simply because He cares for all of His creation. Jesus tells us God provides even for little birds so he is caring for people as well. Being blessed is going to the next level. This is God looking out for you in a special way, providing for you beyond the basics.

One way to be blessed is to be merciful as we see in the verse above. Mercy is a divine quality. When we are merciful we are being like God. In fact if you look to the gospel of Luke you see that in chapter 6 verse 36 Jesus say be merciful as your father in heaven is merciful. That almost sounds like a commandment to me.

But what does it mean to be merciful? Where do I start? What does it look like? Good questions I’m really glad you asked. Being  merciful means you have to give up a few things. You must give up your malicious desires. But I don’t have those you say. Really? You don’t hope that the person that cut you off in traffic drives into a ditch or some such thing? See somebody wearing his pants in a manner that you wouldn’t and hope they fall down around his ankles and trip hip or hope your favorite restaurant won’t serve him I’d say that’s malicious. It wasn’t that long ago their were men at the beach measuring swimsuits and issuing tickets if they found them to short.

Next give up your desire for revenge. Get-evenism is pretty much the opposite of mercy and that’s what revenge is right? A desire to get even.

Blessed are the merciful for they will obtain mercy. This is an area of my life that I think about constantly. This is my no going back position in the war being waged over me between Worthless and Worthwhile. I will be merciful as my Father is merciful. I will walk in this blessing and I do receive mercy in return. It is my prayer that everyone that reads this will resolve to give up malice and vengeance for the mercy and blessing that are far superior to anything that could come from them.




comfort don’t blame

So I’ve got something on my mind that I am a little bit afraid to write about. I have been thinking about this for a while now and have been trying to figure out just the right way to put it out there.

As believers we often get asked some pretty difficult questions about God and life and why things happen the way that they do. At times like this I have heard people say some things that are not right. Look at me still beating around the bush even now. So here it is:

“We don’t know why God took your loved one we just have to trust Him”

God doesn’t take anybody without explaining His reasons.  I’ve looked through scripture and I do see a few instances where He takes somebody but that taking is always explained. Let me offer a couple of examples.

Enoch- He walked with God and God invited him to come home with Him Genesis 5 21-24

Elija- Carried away in a chariot of fire 2 Samuel 2 1-18

Nadab and Abihu- Offered strange fire Leviticus 10 1-3

Ananias and Sapphira- Lied to God Acts 5 1-11

I know that there are difficult times and hard questions but please in these times don’t lay the blame at God’s feet. He didn’t take anyone. He doesn’t need more angels or musicians or smiles or whatever else you might think. God already has everything that he needs. He’s not going to take a loved one to fill in some blank in His kingdom. There are plenty of ways to comfort hurting people without offering this kind of twisted thinking.

Really how is this comforting anyways? At a time when someone needs comfort the most you are imputing their pain onto the one that ought to be their best comfort. As a believer you are present as His ambassador and yet you are going to put the blame on Him.

Instead of assigning blame make an offering of yourself. Give a hug, cry, and if you must speak offer condolences.  An “I’m so sorry” at a time like this can go a long ways. If you pray pray for peace and comfort and don’t say ” we don’t know why” in your prayer because that’s not comforting or helpful. Often the best comfort is silent presence and support.

It is my prayer for every believer in these times that you will be led by the spirit to say and do what is pleasing to God and comforting to those that need comfort.

Romans 12:15 reminds us to rejoice with those who rejoice and cry with those who cry. Empathetic sharing is powerfully comforting and the very best kind of fellowship. Give it a try.




are you #addicted to rebellion?

So last time I was talking to you about the difficulty of doing good. As I was thinking more about this topic I came across this quote from Charles Spurgeon that really got me thinking. What does he mean when he says that? You can go and read the whole thing yourself if you’d like. I’ll put a link to the full sermon at the end of this post

We think, if we read Scripture rightly, that no work can be good unless it is commanded of God.

Delivered on Sabbath Morning, March 16, 1856, by the

REV. C. H. Spurgeon

Ephesians 2:10New International Version (NIV)

10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

When I read these two things together I am struck by one very powerful thought. Doing good works is not just a suggestion or a good idea. Good works aren’t just the things that I included in my last post. Look closely at the verse from Ephesians. It tells us that God Himself prepared for us the good works that he want us to do. It sounds to me like these things are pretty important to Him if that’s the case.

So when my selfishness or my lack of courage or confidence causes me to pass up an opportunity to do good works that puts me into a pretty bad spot. Follow me here if I don’t do the good work that is presented to me I am being disobedient. As I sit here thinking about that my heart is sinking. I know without a doubt that I have done this many times in my life.

I remember a few years ago I was in a prayer meeting and we got to talking about disobedience or as we’re calling it that day rebellion. We talked about it and prayed about it and decided that what we were was addicted to rebellion. We called ourselves rebellion addicts and decided to attack the problem from that direction. But I must admit that until I started to think about it terms of good works there wasn’t a lot of urgency about it for me. It seemed to me to be a personal problem between me and God.

Guess what though it’s not that way at all. When I am rebellious for whatever reason in this regard I am depriving the people around me of the very good work that God planned for them to receive by my obedience. How dare I do that. Who am I to decided who has good happen in somebody’s life or circumstances because of my own junk interfering. How much blessing has been missed in my life and the lives of those around me because of my rebellion?

I encourage you to be on the lookout for these prearranged opportunities because they will present themselves. When they do consider carefully how you are going to behave. Will you be obedient or will you cave in to your addiction to rebellion? Ask Him for help in these situations and he will provide it. God is always on the lookout for people who will be obedient and there is abundant blessing for them and for those around them. Be that person I pray.

Here is the link I promised.


The difficulty of doing #good

It’s not always easy to do the right thing. Oftentimes it just plain gets in the way. Here you are just trying to live your life and bam opportunity for good rears its ugly head. O the inconvenience. Don’t get me wrong it’s not always hard, sometimes it’s really simple. The guy in front of you in line drops something and you pick it up and give it back to him congratulations you’ve just completed a good work. Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back. Now let’s try something that is a little bit more difficult. You see a stray dog in a place that isn’t very safe.  It has a collar so you are pretty sure that it is somebody’s pet.  Do stop to catch it? You know it’s the right thing to do but so inconvenient.

Well the things that the Bible asks you to do can be even harder. We are commanded over and over to do good, to do what is pleasing to God. This good that we do is the fruit that we produce  out of the faith we have in Jesus and out of thanksgiving for all that he has done for us. So why then is it so hard to continually produce the good fruit of good in our lives.

I don’t know what the answer is for you but for me there are two main things that I see holding me back. The first is that really ugly word:selfishness.  Yeah I often won’t do the good I know to do because I just don’t want to, it’s just to much whatever. I used to tell people that something was just too much fuss, that I wouldn’t do it. What a great attitude eh? I can say that I have worked on myself in this area and have improved somewhat but I still find myself battling here on occasion. My own needs still want to come first and I must actively put them down in order to produce the good that God expects of me.

If you’ve read my other posts then you likely know what’s coming next. Yes Worthless is a force in my life even here. He tells me things like what is the point you have done so much selfish evil in the past it’s just to little to late for you. You’ll never get to balance the scales anyways why even try? Or why bother there’s nothing in it for you? Or whatever good you’re trying to do is meaningless just forget about it.

Dear reader I tell you this if you face the same forces in your life don’t listen to them. I’m committing to do the same. I am going to remember that whatever good I am appointed to do was prearranged by God himself. Who am I to put myself in His place? The good you do has a purpose always, so do it. Doing the will of God is it’s own reward don’t look for any other just know that your good fruit pleases Him. That ought to be all the motivation you need.