The Comeback Prayer

October 8, 2019
 
Would you join me in a “comeback prayer?”
 
You’ll spell out the word, “TRUST.”
 
First of all, just Tell God exactly how you feel about what’s going on in your life right now. Just say, “God, I’m really sad today.” Or: “I’m lonely. I’m mad. I’m starting to get resentful.”
 
And second, tell God you’re going to Refuse to get bitter. Tell God: “I want to be better, not bitter. I don’t understand what’s going on in my life. But I know You’re good. I know You love me. I know You got this, God.”
 
Now tell God you’re going to get really serious – I mean, really serious – about the U in Trust: Uniting with other people who will help you focus on God. Say: “God, I haven’t always been all that faithful in worship attendance. And that’s about to change. Because I need You in my life. And I need other people to pray for me and support me and be there for me.”
 
The S in Trust is surrender: “God, I surrender my future to You. I surrender my hopes and my fears and my dreams. I put it all in Your hands.”
 
Finally, the T stands for: Trust. “God, I trust every detail of my comeback to You. I put my trust in Jesus. I trust Jesus to get me out of this mess. I’m giving every area of my life to You, Jesus.”
 
“Father, You have heard these prayers … and I ask for Your blessing. Let each person who prayed these words sincerely, from their heart, begin to feel the difference and see the next step of their comeback. I ask it in Jesus’ name, Amen.”


What Are You Seeking First?

September 25, 2019
Remember this verse? Matthew 6:33. Seek ye first … not second, third, forth, or fifth … the Kingdom of God … not success, not satisfaction, not a salary … and then all these other things will be added unto you.

Here’s what I’ve learned: Whatever you want God to bless, you put Him first in. You want God to bless your time? You give Him the first part of every day. You want God to bless your week? You give Him the first day of every week. You want God to bless your money? You give Him the first part of your money, no matter how little it is.

 
The first part of your money – that was a big deal for me. The Bible clearly says to tithe, return the first 10% to God. I went through 4 years of grad school making $200 a week. But I still tithed. I came to this church with a young family, 2 little babies, and I made $300 a week. But I still tithed. Why? Because I couldn’t afford not to have God’s blessing in my life. I needed God’s blessing. Whatever you want God to bless, put Him first in and then He’ll bless that.
 
We often get this all mixed up. Here’s what we say. We normally say, “God, make me a really great success in business and then I’ll serve you with the success.” Wrong! It’s not, “Make me a success and then I’ll serve you.” It’s the exact opposite. “God, I’m feel like I’m failing; God, I’m spinning my wheels; God, nobody’s biting. But I give it to You as a platform, and then You can bless it as You see fit.”
 
So, what you say is, “Lord, You can use my business as Your platform to spread the Good News.” Somebody says, “What do you do for a living?” You say, “I’m a missionary … disguised as a realtor. (Well, maybe you don’t want to say that. It sounds weird. Just say it to yourself!) “I’m a missionary … disguised as an accountant. I’m a missionary … disguised as a truck driver or a nurse or a housecleaner or whatever. I’m first and foremost using my career as a platform for Jesus; and then I watch Him bless my career.”
 
Let’s pray.
Lord, I want to follow You. I’m committing my job, my career, my livelihood to You. It’s Your job. It’s Your platform. I give You complete access to my life, my job, my marriage, my friendships, my bank account. It’s Yours, Lord. I give it all to You. You get first consideration in all my decisions.
In Your Name I pray, Amen!
 
 


God Made Me to Be Me!

August 14, 2019
God made me to be me!
God made me to be me, not somebody else. God doesn’t want me to be you. God doesn’t want you to be me – or somebody else.
When you get to heaven, God isn’t going to say, “Why weren’t you more like your mother? Why couldn’t you be more like your older sister?” He’s going to say, “Why couldn’t you be more like you. I made you to be you!”
And when you get to heaven, God is not going to say, “Were you popular?” God is not going to say, “Did you keep everybody happy?” God is not going to say, “Did you get through life without ruffling anybody’s feathers?” God is not going to say, “Did you become what others want you to be?”
He’s not going to say that! He’s going to say, “Did you become what I created you to be? Or did you go off and live your life for what your daddy wanted, or your boyfriend wanted, or somebody else wanted?”
The Bible says, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its own mold … (That’s people pleasing.) … but let God remold your minds from within … (That’s learning these truths that will set you free) … so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good …” (Romans 12:2) Underline: “The plan of God for you is good.”
God’s plan for your life is good. Other people’s plans for your life … who knows? Who cares? God didn’t put you on this planet to fulfill the plans of somebody else. God put you here to fulfill His plan … and His plans for you … are always … good.


A Problem of the Heart

July 23, 2019
The Bible says, “Lord, help me control my tongue; help me be careful what I say.” (Psalm 141:3) That might be a good verse to memorize. Say it in your mind when you’re about to lose it. “Lord, help me …”
What happens when you squeeze a tube of toothpaste?  What’s going to come out? You’re like: Is this a trick? Duh, if you squeeze a tube of toothpaste, toothpaste is going to come out!
Well, in the exact same way, when life starts to squeeze you, when life starts to squeeze your heart, when you’re under pressure, do you know what comes out? Whatever’s inside! So, if I’m always losing it and getting angry and lashing out at people, I can’t blame everybody around me. I can’t blame the circumstances. It’s what’s coming out of me. Pressure just reveals what’s inside of me. Let me tell you something about anger: The heart of the problem is a problem of the heart. When you’re under pressure and you start taking it out on the people around you, you want to say, “Holy Cow! I don’t know where that came from.” Yes, you do. It came from inside you. It comes from your heart. The key is to change what’s inside. Let me say it again: The key is to change what’s inside.
If you’ve got a well and the well is giving you bad water, fixing the pump isn’t going to fix the problem. You’re still going to be pumping up dirty water. That’s the problem with a lot of self-help books. They tell you how to fix the pump. But they don’t tell you how to fix the water in the well. Until you fix that, things aren’t going to change.
So what do you do? How do you make things different? You let your life be filled with God’s Spirit. That’s changing the water in the well. That’s getting to the “heart” of the problem.
I’ve found that when I get full of myself, when I’m filled with Jeff, almost anything can annoy me and upset me. But if I’m filled with God’s Spirit, almost nothing can upset me. I’ve got a power – a power greater than my own human power, a power greater than anything in this world.
How do you get filled with God’s Spirit? Don’t make it too complicated. It just means you look to God instead of yourself. You pray a very simple two-word prayer: “Help me.”
The three things that cause anger – hurt, frustration, and fear – Jesus can heal. Jesus can heal your hurting heart with his love. Jesus can replace your frustration with his peace. Jesus can replace your insecurity with his power.
Did you ever see a baby in its mother’s arms? If you pick up a crying baby and hold that baby close, and it feels warm and safe and secure, that baby stops crying. It stops being angry. Today’s the day to let your Father hold you close. When you feel accepted and secure, when you feel totally loved, your anger is going to disappear.
 


Love Forgives Mistakes

July 9, 2019
 
The Bible says, “Love forgets mistakes; nagging about them parts the best of friends.” (Proverbs 17:9)
Think of the person that’s closest to you in life. Even though you love them, there are some things they do that just flat out bug you. I mean, really bug you! You know – those things that really get you going. What am I saying? Let it go. It’s foolish to let that little thing control you. Let it go. There are so many things to love about them. Besides, you’re not God – so you’re not perfect either. Mike and Sally were celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary. Somebody walked over to Sally and said, “Congratulations on your 50-year marriage! What’s your secret?” Sally said, “I never tried to change him.”
Now, I’m not making this up. This is the exact truth. The same person walked up to Mike five minutes later. He said, “What’s the secret to a 50-year marriage?” Mike said, “I never tried to change her.”
Folks, I guess that’s the secret to a whole lot of things.
Why don’t you pray this prayer?  I’ll go first; I’ll take the lead …

Lord, I’m not one to talk.  I’ve made every mistake I talked about today – and I’ll probably do some dumb things again before the day is over.  (Lord, if you have any doubts about that fact, just ask my wife.)  But I want to change.  I want to do better.  I want to be smart.  I want fun and fulfillment, not drama and draining.  So, the next time I lose my patience and get annoyed, I want to remember these words: I won’t antagonize you.  (I won’t push your buttons.  I won’t compare, condemn, correct, or criticize.)  I won’t minimize your feelings.  (Even if I don’t feel the same way, I won’t ignore or invalidate your feelings.)  And I won’t criticize you.  (I won’t nag, critique, or emphasize your mistakes.  I won’t try to be your conscience.)  Lord, now take my good intentions, and infuse them with Your power.  You’re going to be with me – and that will make all the difference.  Amen.



Draw Love From God

June 18, 2019
 
Constantly draw love from God.
There is no one in the world who loves you the way God loves you. You may think your parents love you, or your husband or wife, but I tell you, you can multiply their love ten-thousand times ten-thousand and it will not equal the love God is feeling for you right at this very moment.
You say, “But can God love me like that – in spite of all my sins?” Friend, God’s love is bigger than any sin you could commit. It’s like throwing a handful of sand into the ocean. The ocean is big enough to absorb the sand – and God’s love is big enough to absorb your sin.
Some of you are parents. Think about how much you love those kids of yours. Think about what you would do for them, what you would go through for them. Now consider this: You are God’s child. God says, “I am your Father and I love you.”
I remember when one of my children was hospitalized. He lay there, tubes inserted in him, machines beeping. I prayed from my heart: Dear God, I would gladly trade places with him. Let me suffer instead of him. Why? Because this is my child!
I remember a father telling me about his daughter who had run up a huge credit card bill and now was being hounded by creditors. I said, “What did you do?” He said, “I paid off her debt. What am I going to do? I’m her father.”
I remember … well, you get the point.
The power of a parent’s love … Now, if a human father can love like that, how much more do you think your Father in heaven is able to love you? “How great is the love the Father has lavished upon us!” says the Bible. “For God so loved the world!” says the Bible. “I have loved you with an everlasting love!” and “I have always loved you!” says the Bible. (1 John 3:1, John 3:16, Jeremiah 31:3, Malachi 1:2)


Bloom Where You’re Planted

June 4, 2019
 
I was driving home one day. I got stopped at a traffic light on Route 10 on that little bridge by Mill Crane Pond. You know the spot? So, I glance out my car window, and I notice the most beautiful flowers – pink and purple impatiens – growing right out of a crack in the blacktop. Somehow, these beautiful, vivid flowers blossomed right out of the middle of that blacktop, with 20,000 cars a day passing within inches, spewing their foul fumes. I thought, That is exactly what God wants me to do – bloom where I’m planted!
 
You may work in a rough work environment. You may be between a rock and a hard place. You may feel like you’ve fallen through the cracks. But don’t let that stop you from blooming. Realize that your environment does not keep you from being happy. Bloom – anyway!
 
Now, I’m sensitive to the fact that for some of you, this is more difficult than for others. You may be battling depression; you may be going through a particularly dark chapter of your life; you may find yourself into a situation that stinks. But you’re still going to have to choose how you’re going to respond to that.
 
That’s what Saint Paul did. Do you know that Paul wrote more than half the New Testament while in prison, often in a tiny stone cell not much bigger than a modern-day bathroom? Some historians believe that raw sewage actually ran right through the dungeon where he was imprisoned. He probably wrote some of the great passages of the New Testament standing in raw sewage that at times came all the way up to his hips. You might say, “Paul was up to his waist in waste!”
Yet Paul wrote amazing faith-filled words like this …
“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!” (Philippians 4:12-13) Paul, waist deep, said, “Rejoice in the Lord always! I’ll say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
 
Dare I say it? If you feel like your situation is “crappy” … I’m just saying. Think of Paul! (Gesture to indicate waste deep) Instead of having a pity party and thinking how unfair life is treating you, instead of feeling sorry for yourself, make a decision to bloom where you’re planted. Remember: Even sewage makes good fertilizer. Bloom where you are planted! Don’t worry about the things you can’t change. Bloom – anyway!
You can’t change the traffic in the morning. You can’t fix everybody at work. You may not be where you want to be in life. Here’s the key: Don’t worry about things you can’t change. Be content where you are. Keep a good attitude and keep blossoming right where you are.


Double for Your Trouble

May 22, 2019
 
Don’t give up! God will bring justice in His timing.
His timing, not ours. Sometimes it doesn’t happen overnight. That’s why the Bible says: “Don’t get tired of doing what’s right! (Did you hear that today, Christ Church?) Don’t get discouraged and give up! (Why?) For we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.” (Galatians 6:9)
Pick up your Bible and you will meet a young man named David. David was a shepherd boy. One day he stood face to face with a giant of a man, Goliath. Goliath walked out onto the battlefield roaring insults at David. David was too small to even fit into the armor of a full-grown warrior, so he walked out onto the battlefield with nothing but a slingshot. Everybody said, “David, Goliath is so big – you can’t beat him!” David gripped his slingshot and said, “Goliath is so big – I can’t miss him!” With a whoosh, he toppled the giant and a roar of victory went up on the battlefield!
From that moment on, David’s popularity skyrocketed! Everybody knew his name. Everybody loved him … except the king. King Saul was jealous of David’s popularity. One day in the quiet chambers of his place, far from the eyes of the crowd, Saul tried to kill David, hurling a spear at him. David fled for his life. And, for the next few years, David lived life on the run.
Now, think of it. David hadn’t done anything wrong. Yet Saul was paying him back by trying to kill him. Instead of getting even, David refused to hurt Saul, even when he had the chance.
Do you remember from reading your Bible how it all ended? God supported David. God honored David. And God raised him up to be the greatest king in Israel’s history.
Question: Is there a “Saul” in your life? Somebody who treats you wrong for no apparent reason? That means you need to be a “David.” If you respond like a David, God will respond to you like a David.
Is there someone in your life who is attacking you like that? My advice: You’ve got to turn that situation over to God. In the end, you’ll come out much better. In fact, I predict that in the end, God will pay you back “double for your trouble!” The Bible says that, if you keep the right attitude, God will add up all the trouble and all the sorrow that’s been inflicted on you, and He’ll pay you back twice as much peace and joy and happiness and success. Twice as much! The next time you feel like someone is attacking you, just remember: God will pay you back double for your trouble! (Isaiah 61:7)
So, trust God to right the wrongs in your life. Don’t go around trying to pay people back, trying to get revenge. Don’t sink to their level. And don’t give up. Remember, God is keeping good records – and He will pay you back double for your trouble.


Change the Channel

May 7, 2019

We all know how to change the channel on our TV.  If we see something we don’t like, big deal – grab the remote and change the channel.  Or say, “Hey, Alexa …”  Or, “Hey, Google …”  Well, we need to learn how to mentally change the channel – mentally change the channel when negative images of the past pop up in your mind.  Unfortunately, what do most of us do?  When negative memories come on the “screen” of our mind, instead of changing the channel, we pull up a chair and pop some popcorn.  We allow ourselves to relive all those hurts and pains, as if we’re watching an old movie.  Then we wonder why we’re depressed.  You probably know some people who thrive on self-pity.  They like the attention it brings them.  They’re addicted to the drama.  They’ve lived with their problem so long it becomes a part of their identity.  The truth is, some people really don’t want to get over things.  They like the attention too much.  Fifteen years ago … Fifteen years ago, Phil and Judy’s only son was killed in a freak accident.  It was one of those senseless, unexplainable accidents for which there are no words of comfort.  Family and friends hovered over the couple for months, feeling their grief.  They brought food and sent cards.  But months turned to years, and the couple seemed to harden in their grief.  No matter what anyone said, they just said, “You don’t know what it’s like to lose a child.”  Friends would call and invite them to dinner.  “We’re really not up to it,” they would answer.  Slowly, but surely, the comforters quit coming.  People stopped calling.  Family members avoided visiting.  But Phil and Judy remained untouched.  In their minds, nobody ever felt pain the way they did.  They would forever be known as the couple who lost a son.  Fifteen years … fifteen years … after the fact, Phil and Judy continue to languish in self-pity and self-induced isolation.  Why?  Because they don’t want to get well.  What am I saying to you?  If you’ve had some painful experience, don’t let that experience become the focal point of your life.  You’ve got to get beyond it.  It’s natural to grieve, but you shouldn’t still be stuck in the same place ten or fifteen years later.  Unless you let go of the old, God cannot bring in the new.  Remember, your emotions follow your thoughts.  When you dwell on painful experiences in your past, your emotions go right back there – and you feel it in the present.  You can relive something in your mind and feel it today just as vividly as when it happened twenty years ago.  One day a man was walking through his parent’s house … As he came to the family room, he started thinking about the night his dad died.  Dad had a heart attack right there in that room.  In his imagination, he could see it all happening.  He could see his dad on the floor.  He could see the paramedics working on him.  For fifteen or twenty seconds, he stood there paralyzed, overwhelmed by emotions.  Finally, he caught himself, and thought, What am I doing?  Where is my mind going?  Where are these emotions taking me? Right there he decided that he was not going to allow himself to relive that night again.  It wouldn’t do him any good.  It would just get him upset and depressed.  So, instead of dwelling on the hurt of the past, he purposely started recalling all the good times that he and his dad had shared in that family room.  Christmas mornings … family jokes … watching football on TV.  And joy began to flood into his mind. Now, notice it didn’t happen naturally – it was a decision he had to make.  I will change the channel.  I refuse to go back there emotionally.  I refuse to dredge up the pain of the past.  You and I need to do the same thing. 



Humble Pie

Today we’re looking at that verse in the Bible that says, “Love is not conceited or proud.” (1 Corinthians 13:4) In other words, if you want good relationships, if you want to love life … you’ve got to learn humility.
 
What is humility? It’s not a lack of confidence. It’s not a low opinion of yourself. It’s not putting yourself down. Jesus was the most humble person who ever lived, but He never put Himself down. Jesus was very humble, but He was very confident.
Let me give you a healthy definition of humility:
 
Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking more of others.
 
That’s true, healthy humility. It’s thinking of others, not just thinking of yourself. It’s being other-person centered, not me-centered. The Bible says, like all aspects of love, this is something you’ve got to practice to get good at.
 
 “Give preference to one another.” (Romans 12:10) Let the other person go first.
I remember a quote from the great orchestra conductor Leonard Bernstein. He was asked, “What’s the most difficult instrument to play in the orchestra?” He answered, “Second fiddle.”
Well, how true! Everyone wants the top spot. Do you know what? There are like 20 violins in the orchestra, but only one can be in the premier chair. Everyone else had to play backup. But without everyone else, you don’t have an orchestra and you aren’t making the music!
How does that play out in your life? To paraphrase Romans 12:10, “Practice playing second fiddle.” Put others before yourself.
 
Let’s Pray.
 
Dear Heavenly Father, I want to be the kind of person that You can bless. I admit that I often do things out of selfishness and pride and fear of what others might think of me. I ask You to help me practice these habits of humility.
Help me give preference to others – to their needs, their interests. Help me learn to genuinely applaud the success of others and give credit to others. Help me admit when I’m wrong, Father. I need to be open to criticism and correction.
Today, I surrender all of my life and all of my future plans to You. I want Your will for my life. Father God, I turn over the controls of my life to You. And I humbly ask You to be the director of my life. I want to depend on You from this day forward.
In the Name of Your Son Jesus, Amen.