When Life Stinks

September 11, 2020
When Life Stinks
 
Give the fertilizer time to work.
 
There was a young woman who grew up in a very difficult environment. Her father died when she was just six years old, and her mother was on dialysis. When other kids were out playing with their friends or doing cheerleading, she was at home taking care of her mom, running the kidney machine. By the time she was 12, she had to do all the grocery shopping, cook for the family, and get her little brother dressed and ready for school.
It seemed like she was at a disadvantage. But just because something is unfair doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a great future for you … if you give it some time.
This young woman didn’t complain or feel sorry for herself. Despite all the odds stacked against her, she worked hard in high school and got a full scholarship to college. She went on to get her Masters and then a Doctorate. Today she’s super successful in the corporate world and she’s happily married with three kids.
Here’s my question: Why do some people in the same type of situation struggle through life? Why do some people in the exact same situation live defeated, always complaining about their problems – while others overcome the odds and flourish?
The answer is: It’s how we approach life. We all have stuff that stinks; we all have unfair situations, things we don’t like. You can get bitter and discouraged … or you can see it as fertilizer and say, “This difficulty is not going to defeat me; it’s going to promote me. It’s not going to hinder me; it’s going to help me.”
So, the next time you see that person at work who gets on you nerves, instead of getting upset, just smile and say to yourself, “You’re just fertilizer. You stink, but you’re helping me grow.” Just look at them and say to yourself: “You think you’re pushing me down, but you’re really pushing me up.” Say, “I know a secret. It’s all just fertilizer. It’s going to cause me to bloom, and blossom, and flourish.”


Agents of Mercy

August 7, 2020

Okay, time to get down to business.  Folks, the truth of the matter is, God has chosen you to be a part of His network … one of His special agents.  What’s your assignment?  He wants you to be an “agent of mercy” – an “agent of mercy” – to the people around you.   

What’s the best way to do that in today’s world?  Let me put it this way: As the world becomes more unkind, more mean, more crass … we need to become more kind.  That’s what it means to be an “agent of mercy.”

Let me ask you this:  Is the world today becoming more loving or more self-centered?  Is the world today more polite than it was ten years ago or more rude?  Politics … more unified or more divided?  Don’t even get me started!

So here’s the big breakthrough thought for you:  In a mean world, our greatest witness to the world is showing mercy. 

In a mean, unkind world – filled with mean, unkind people – our greatest witness to the world is showing kindness.  Our greatest witness to the world is showing mercy.  Because it’s so unusual, it stands out.  That’s why Jesus said: “Show mercy to others, just as your Father shows mercy to you!”  (Matthew 6:36) Jesus was saying, “I want you to be a special agent – an “agent of mercy.”

Would you say this?  Dear God, I want to be an “agent of mercy.”  So, Lord, help me to start looking and listening for people’s needs.  If I care, I have to be aware.  Help me to see the needs of people at work, at school, with the people I hang around with. 



What Holds You Captive?

July 3, 2020

So many people are stuck in the past.  They’re just stuck and they can’t get on with the future because they can’t let go of the past.  If that describes you, here’s what Jesus is saying to you this morning.  “I was sent to announce freedom to all held captive and forgiveness to all who have been imprisoned.”   (Isaiah 61:1)  He’s not just talking about people in a cold cement prison cell.  He’s talking about the emotional prisons, the emotional prisons that we lock ourselves up in. 

  • Some of you right now, you are in a prison of regret. And you just can’t forgive yourself over that thing that happened in the past.  You can’t let go of it.  You’re in a prison of regret, over things you’ve done.
  • Some of you are in a prison of resentment, over things that have been done to They hurt me and I’m never going to let it go.  I’m never going to let another man get close to me, because he hurt me so bad.  I’m never going to open my heart to that again.  I’m never going to stop being a victim.  And you’re in a prison of resentment. 
  • Some of you are in a prison of envy. How come my husband can’t be like her husband?  How come they have a nice house and I’m stuck in this apartment?
  • Some of you are in a prison of worry. What if I get this virus?  What if my work doesn’t get back to normal?  What do I do with my kids if the schools don’t open in the fall?  You worry constantly and you’re sick and tired.  And you get sick and tired of being sick and tired.
  • Some of you are in a prison of addiction, and secret sins and secret habits. And you think: If we ever knew the real you … If they ever knew what goes on when I’m alone.

I ask you today: What holds you captive?  What’s got you locked up inside?  This morning Jesus holds out His hands to you.  And He says, “I have come to save you and not to judge you.”  (John 12:47)  “I’ve come to help you, not hurt you; love you, not judge you.”  I love Jesus!  I want to be like Jesus.  It’s not my job to judge the world.  It’s my job is to point to the Savior. 

Now, look at me.  Let me be absolutely clear.  There will be a Judgement Day.  The Bible is clear about that.  One day you are going to be required to give an account of your life to God.  And that day is going to be a day of fearful judgment … only if you reject the mercy of God.  God doesn’t want to judge you.  He wants to show you mercy. 

  • For you, it can be a day of celebration, of victory, of incredible eternal reward, of unspeakable joy! Joy – not judgment!
  • For you … Well, you’ll probably be an old man or an old woman when die. For you, it will be a day to get out of that wheelchair and dance! 
  • For you, it will be a day throw aside your walker and jump in the air and click your heals!
  • For you, it will be a day to get the keys to your new home and get fitted for your new crown! Joy – not judgement! 

So just go to God.  Right now.  While I’m still speaking.  Go to God and say, “Lord, I’ve messed up.  I want Your mercy.”  And right now, God is instantly washing you clean.  Right now, you are receiving forgiveness for all the times you messed up and freedom to change your future.  And here’s what the Bible says, “Anyone who asks for mercy from the Lord shall have it and shall be saved.”  (Acts 2:21)

Anyone.  That’s me … that’s you … that’s awesome.



Fish and God

June 3, 2020
 
You can look forward to each new day. Why? Because the past is behind you and God is beside you. When you start each day, take the words of Joshua 1:9 and personalize them: “I am strong and courageous.” You’re walking into work: “I can face anything. I will not be anxious or afraid; I will not get discouraged, for the Lord my God will be with me wherever I go.”
The past is behind you and God is beside you. Remember the famous words from the Christmas story? “They will call Him Immanuel – which means, ‘God With Us.’”
In his book The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey talks about when he was a teenager and it finally dawned on him what an awesome thing it was that God is with us. He said he learned about God when he kept an aquarium. Management of an aquarium, he discovered, is no easy task. He had to monitor the nitrate levels and ammonia content. He pumped in vitamins and antibiotics. He filtered the water through glass fibers and charcoal, and exposed it to ultraviolet light.
“You would think,” he writes, “in view of all the energy expended on their behalf, that my fish would be grateful. Not so. Every time my shadow loomed above the tank, they dove for cover. They showed me only one emotion: fear. Although I opened the lid and dropped in food on a regular schedule, three times a day, they responded to each visit as a sure sign that I was there to hurt them. I could not convince them that I was watching over them and caring for them. I was too large for them, my actions too incomprehensible.
“And then it dawned on me: Those fish will never comprehend my actions. In order to be understood by them I would have to become one of them. I would have to become a fish and ‘speak’ to them in a language they could understand.”
And that is just what God did. That’s what the Bible says. The Bible says God is big and powerful and beyond our comprehension. So He became one of us. He lived among us and spoke a language we could understand. Now He has promised He will never leave us. Put the past behind you and God beside you.


Choose Gratitude

May 1, 2020
 I know every good thing I have comes from God.
 
Here’s what it says in the Bible: “Every good and perfect gift comes from… Where? …above.” (James 1:17) You are such a good congregation today!
Christmas Day 1944. The soldier climbed out of his foxhole. The temperature was below zero. The snow creaked beneath his feet. Each breath sent a cloud of frost into the frigid morning air. The forest around him was quiet … unnaturally quiet.
Suddenly, there was the high screech of incoming artillery. Instantly, the air was exploding around him. Trees shattering. Men screaming. Bullets slicing the air. It was the bloody World War II Battle of the Bulge and he was in the dead center of it. He dove for the ground and, as the artillery shells exploded around him, he thought: This is it. The last Christmas I’ll ever have. I’ll never make it home.
Well, he was wrong about that. Boy, was he wrong! He made it home, became a founding member of this church, raised a beautiful family, and shared 71 more Christmas Days with them.
And on a Christmas Day … 71 years later … he died … at the age of 93. Back in 1944, the old fighter said, This is it. The last Christmas I’ll ever have. I’ll never make it home. On Christmas Day … 71 years later … he finally made it home. He looked around heaven and said: I’m home! Home for Christmas.
You know, he once said this to me: “Jeff, I cheated death back then. I don’t know why I lived and the guys around me died. The way I see it, now every day’s a bonus.”
Do you see that, too? Every day’s a gift. Every day’s a bonus. And every good thing I have, every good thing you have, comes from God. God gives life to bless you … health to strengthen you … friends to support you … family to love you … church to encourage you. Every good thing you have comes from God. We need to understand that God is completely good; He is constantly good; He is unchangingly good. God cannot be less than good. God will never not be good. Everything our God does is good and once we embrace that, it changes our attitude. Instead of an attitude of entitlement, we embrace an attitude of gratitude. The way I see it, every day is a bonus and every good gift comes from above.


A Great Work

I don’t know who this is going to speak to today … I don’t know who’s feeling this, but …

 
  • I’m visualizing maybe a young mom … and you’re trapped in the house by this virus. Sometimes you feel exhausted, just wiped out.  And I hope you’ll hear this, you’ll feel this, because maybe you’re wishing you could do other things with your life right now.  And I hope you realize that this season won’t last forever.  And this just might be the best time you ever have to make some memories with those kids that will last a lifetime.  And you can show them your faith and your strength and how your family can’t be broken.  And guess what?  What you’re doing right now is a great work.  Embrace that great work.  This season will pass, but the mark you make on those kids will never pass …. Young moms.  You’re doing a great work.
  • I’m visualizing someone trying to pay off debt … and it is a slow dollar by dollar uphill climb and the hill feels so big. But whenever the enemy tells you that you’ll never make it, that it’s not worth it, just say, “You get off my back!  I’m doing a great work.  I’m doing what God has called me to do for my family and for my future” ….  You’re doing a great work.
  • I’m visualizing someone trying to love someone. Maybe its your child and you just can’t seem to reach them.  Maybe it’s your husband and his heart is just so hard.  And you feel like giving up.  You feel like walking out.  But I want you to say, “I’m not going to give up on this relationship.  I’m not going to walk out when this gets messy” …  You’re doing a great work.
  • I’m visualizing someone battling addiction … It’s a fight every day. And these days you can’t even go to a meeting, because of this virus.  So, you call your sponsor.  And talk it out.  And you know you can live one day at a time and you can make it through this day.  You say, “I’ve been clean 90 days and I’m going to make it to 91” …  You’re doing a great work. 
  • I’m visualizing someone with a real heart for something, a vision for something, and you want to make a difference. And it seems like you take two steps forward and three steps back.  But you don’t give up the fight.  You’re going to stay in the game, because you know you haven’t lost until you quit ….    You’re doing a great work.

Let’s bow our heads and go to God.  Let me ask you this: What is it that’s got you feeling tired … like giving up … like just throwing in the towel? 

Is it this virus?  Is it your health?  Maybe it’s your finances right now.  This is a crazy time and I know so many of you have lost your job.  Maybe it’s that addiction that won’t stop whispering in your ear, pulling at you.  Maybe you’re just so tired of staying home – not getting out for school, for work, for friends. 

Let me just say this.  As the voice of Jesus, the Lord of Love:  You’re doing a great work.  Don’t give up. 

Just pray: Dear Lord Jesus,  Help me take it one day at a time.  Help me keep working until the job is done.  The truth is, I’ve come to see that I can’t do it by myself.  I wasn’t designed for it.  I need You in my life. 

Lord, I bring my whole self to You right now.  I want to trade my weakness for Your strength, my weariness for Your energy.  I want to trade my anxiety for Your perfect peace, my chaos for Your calm confidence.

And on day, when I breathe my last breath in this world, I ask You to take me safely to heaven, where You’ll have a home waiting for me. 

I pray this in Your name, Amen. 



Prayer for Troubled Times

Dear Jesus,

 

These are difficult days.  We are in uncharted waters.  The good news is: We’re in the boat with you.  We may be in uncharted waters.  There may be dark clouds overhead.  The wind might be against us.  But we’re in the boat with you.  And, so, we’re not going to sink. 

 

Lord Jesus, I ask You to stretch out Your tender hand and just place it on the shoulder of anyone who needs reassurance.  May they feel Your presence in the storm, your nearness, in an almost tangible way.  Lord Jesus, may they feel You say these words, deep inside their heart, “Peace.  Be still.  My peace I give to you.  I will never abandon you; I will never forsake you.”

 

Now, everybody, think about your own prayer needs … What do you need in your life the most right now? …

 

Lord Jesus, make that – that very thing – come true for them.  Provide for them.  Meet their needs.  Strengthen them.  Calm their uncertainties.  

 

We pray in the Name of the Lord of Love, Amen. 



Be Bold

March 3, 2020
Be bold!
A while ago a repairman come to our house to fix the air conditioner. He didn’t come in the house and open up my refrigerator to get something to drink. He didn’t sit on my couch and watch Netflix. He went straight to the air conditioning unit and fixed the problem. He knew he couldn’t come in and make himself at home. He was there as a servant, not a son.
But when our kids come over, they don’t ask, “Hey, Dad, can I go to the refrigerator and get something to drink? Can I sit on the couch?” No, they don’t ask permission; they act like they own the place – and, in a way, they do. They’re my children. Everything I have is theirs.
And I like the fact they know who they are. They’re confident, so they go boldly to the refrigerator. The Bible tells us to “Go boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16) – not as a servant, saying, “God, I know I don’t deserve it. I know I’m unworthy.” No, if you want to make God happy, if you want to put a smile on God’s face, go to Him with boldness. Go to Him like you know He’s proud of you, like you know He loves you, like you know He wants to be good to you. Ask Him for your dreams to come true. Pray bold prayers. You’re not inconveniencing Him.
Never once has one of my kids come into our house and said, “Dad, I don’t deserve to eat here. Let me work for you and earn the right to have this meal.” If they did that, number one, I’d check their temperature. Number two, as their father, I would be disappointed. I would think, Don’t they know they’re my kids and I always want to be good to them?
Are you trying to earn God’s goodness, trying to be good enough, thinking that then maybe you’ll deserve God’s blessings? That’s a slave mentality. Why don’t you just start believing that you’re already in the family. Jesus says, “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” God is longing to be good to you.


You Are God’s Favorite!

February 18, 2020
 
Can I tell you a secret? God has favorites … and you are His favorite! You’re the one He loves.
I’ve heard it said that God has no favorites. I think that’s wrong. God has all favorites. He doesn’t have to pick and choose between us, because He has unlimited love. He doesn’t just show love, He doesn’t just express love – He is love. Love is not just what He does; it’s who He is.
I heard about a family that had five kids. The mom had all their names and numbers stored in her cell phone. But the youngest – the baby in the family, her name was April – Mom didn’t have her listed under her name, she had her listed under “Favorite.” So instead of “April,” it says “Favorite.” One time one of the big brothers borrowed his mom’s phone and he saw that and said, “Now, that’s just not right!”
I can imagine that if God had a cell phone, you would be stored under “Favorite.” It wouldn’t be Joe Smith, it would be Favorite Smith. It would be Favorite Bob, Favorite Kathy, Favorite Rebecca. We’re all His favorite!
My wife likes to say, “God is so good to me, I think He has a crush on me!” He has a crush on you, too! “Well, not me, Jeff. You don’t know the mistakes I’ve made. You don’t know the past I’ve lived. When I clean myself up, I know God will love me a lot more.”
Nothing you can do will make God love you more. You might as well believe that you are His favorite right now. He may not be pleased with all your behavior, but that doesn’t change His love for you. You may have made mistakes, you may have shortcomings, but He’s still proud of you. He still says you’re amazing. He still calls you His masterpiece. And knowing that you’re loved like that will give you the strength to do better next time.


Kittens from Heaven

January 8, 2020
Kittens from Heaven, or God’s Amazing Goodness.
 
God wants to amaze you with His goodness this year!
“Well,” you say, “Jeff, I don’t see how that could happen for me. I don’t see how I could ever get out of these problems. I don’t see how I could ever turn things around.” Here’s the key: You don’t have to see how. That’s not your job. Your job is to believe. God has all kinds of ways to bring your dreams to pass. He has ways you’ve never even thought of. That’s why it says in Proverbs, “Lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)
Sometimes there is no logical solution. Sometimes there is no natural way out. If you constantly try to figure it out, you will just get frustrated. Eventually, you’ll get discouraged and just give up. Again, understand this: Just because you can’t see a way doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have a way.
One of the stories I love to tell the most is the story of little Lindsay. Lindsay wanted a kitten. She kept asking her mother week after week for this kitten. But her mother didn’t want any more pets around the house. She said no to her daughter’s dream again and again. But this little girl was so determined, she kept asking month after month.
One day she said, “But, Mommy, what happens if God really wants me to have a kitten?”
Finally, out of frustration, the mother said, “Listen, honey. If God gives you a kitten, I’ll let you keep it. But we’re not buying one.”
Well, Lindsay didn’t know any better. She went out in the backyard, got down on her knees, and said, “God, I’m asking You to please, please give me a kitten.”
When she finished praying, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a kitten drops out of the sky and lands right in front of her. The mother could not believe her eyes. She thought she was seeing things. There was no tree overhead. It looked like the kitten had just fallen from the heavens. Lindsay picked it up and said, “Look, Mommy. God gave me my kitten.” Mom just stood there dumbfounded, in disbelief.
Several months later, she learned what happened. The neighbors who lived behind her and two houses down were trying to get this little kitten out of a tree, but it was too tall for the man to reach with his ladder. So, this man got a smart idea. He tied a rope to the tree, and he hooked the rope to his pick-up truck. He started slowly pulling the pick-up forward to bend the tree over.
Just when he got the tree bent low enough to reach the kitten, the rope broke, and the tree acted like a slingshot. It shot that kitten three houses down – and it fell right at that little girl’s feet. The man felt terrible. He thought it was dead. He didn’t know that he’d just answered a little girl’s prayer.
God works in mysterious ways. Now that little girl can say, “Who would have thought God would have rained down a kitten from the heavens?”
Is there anything too difficult for our God? Is there anything too wonderful for our God? He knows how to put you in the right place at the right time.
If you are single and looking for a relationship, God can bring the right person into your life. I wouldn’t expect that person to drop out of the sky, though. If that happens, you’d better call the police. But God can bring somebody great across your path. Don’t doubt that. Just say, “Lord, I believe.”
If your business is slow, He can bring the right connections across your path. Even if the year starts slow, He can make it up in the second half of the year. Just keep plugging, keep pushing, keep going with integrity, and keep yourself in the game. Just say, “Lord, I believe.”
My friend, God is in control of the universe. He is directing your steps, causing you to be in the right place at the right time. He knows what you need, and he knows how to get it to you. He can even rain down a kitten from the heavens!
You may not see how it can happen, but remember: God has a way. God will amaze you with His goodness. You will experience some “Who would have thought?” blessings. And when you look back on 2020, you will say, “This was not an average year … this was not a mediocre year … this was not a super year. It was a supernatural year!”