CLEAR back in January of 2017, I came across this scripture as I was preparing for my new series on relationships entitled, "Love Handles". The passage I was working on for the series was Romans chapter 12, which we went through for the entire year. I decided, in order to get a better understanding of this chapter, I should research the previous chapter to get a better idea of the context. The verse was Romans 11:32 and says, "For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that He may have mercy on them all." I realized from this verse, that mercy was key for all good relationships, for this was how God deals with His creation. I guess if viewing people through the eyes of mercy is good for God, it has to be good for us too.

            FAST forward to late spring of 2017, as I was preparing to speak at the Western District youth camp and I felt strongly that Romans 11:32 should be the first message I spoke to the youth. As I was working on this verse two particular words rang out. Those words were "SO THAT". What I saw was the first phrase of the verse, "God has bound all men over to disobedience." This happened SO THAT God could do something else. The one set up the other. The other being "mercy on them all." The first had to happen SO THAT the next could take place. What these two words have come to mean to me is an expectation. Because the first things had happened we could now expect the second to happen.

            FROM all of this, I started seeing those two words, "SO THAT", regularly in my daily devotional readings. In fact, just in the New Testament alone "SO THAT" appears 299 times. Obviously, some of these did not carry the same deep spiritual meaning as what I saw in Romans 11:32. But some of them sure did.

            ALL of this has led me on a journey of exploration as to what "SO THAT" really means for our spiritual growth and maturity. I came to see that the Lord was speaking to me about this new year.

            WITH what has been happening in our beloved country and the world these past months: Horrific hurricanes; horrible floodings; mass shootings; devastating fires; earthquakes; terror attacks and political upheaval, I sensed a bit of foreboding for 2018. But this, as I have learned, is not how God views our new year. In fact I believe God is excited for 2018 and has great plans, not only for our country and the world, but for us individually. I'm reminded of His great promise from Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." No matter what is troubling our world and even our hearts and minds, does not negate what God wants to do and how He sees things. I prefer God's view of my life and not how the world may see things! How about you?

            IT is with great joy, anticipation and excitement that I see for 2018 and I pray you join me. The word that I believe God has given our church for this new year is:

"GREAT EXPECTATIONS FOR 2018!"

            JUST think what positive things God could do in our lives in spite of all the negative things going on. God isn't bound by global economies, natural disasters, terrorists, governments or anything else we could name. The only thing that binds the hands of God moving in our life and our new year is our lack of faith in Him. We are the only ones who can prevent God from working great things for us in 2018.

            IN Matthew 9:27-30 it says, "...Two blind men followed Him, calling out, 'Have mercy on us, Son of David!' When He had gone indoors, the blind men came to Him, and He asked them, 'Do you believe that I am able to do this?' 'Yes, Lord,' they replied. Then He touched their eyes and said, 'According to your faith will it be done to you'; and their sight was restored." Just like that, their faith in Jesus caused the miracle of sight. Who knows what God can do for you? Well, God does, He knows exactly what your new year is going to be. He's already been there for you mapping out what is best for you and what will cause you the most growth and blessings possible.

            SO what do you say? Will you join with me in believing that 2018 will be the best year of our lives? One thing that is so important is having Great Expectations for 2018, SO THAT we see His goodness.