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!”


Amazing God

December 4, 2019
Let me show you how you can tap into the amazing power of our amazing God. Because there may come a day when you get a bad prognosis. There may come a day when you feel overwhelmed, when you feel like you’re ready to throw in the towel.
 
Here is one way to bring the power of God into your battle …
Turn to Him.
 
God says, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; and I will deliver you and you will honor Me.” (Psalm 50:15)
Here’s what I would do if I were you. I would just say, in my own words, in my own way, “God, I open my heart to You. I open my life to You. I don’t have all the answers. I still have a lot of questions and doubts. But I want You in my life.” Or just say it sweet and simple like Sue: “Jesus, I love You, I love You, I love You.”
Maybe you’re thinking, “But, Jeff, I’m too far gone. It’s too late for God to do anything in my situation. My situation is totally messed up.”
Well, that’s what they said back in the pages of the Bible. One time the Israelites were facing an overwhelming enemy army. To put some distance between themselves and the enemy, the Israeli army made a fatal mistake. They made a run for it and they ran right into a desert. Six days later, they’re out there under the scalding sun, their horses are panting, their men are dropping, they’re out of water. They’re in the middle of the desert, and the middle eastern sun is beating down on them, and it’s hopeless. Their situation is hopeless! Without water, they’re dead.
So, they decided to do what I’m telling you to do. They call out to God in their day of trouble. They said, “God, if we don’t find water, it’s all over.”
God said, “You called to Me in your day of trouble; and I will deliver you and you will honor Me. You will have all the water you need by this time tomorrow.”
They said, “But … but … we’re in the middle of a scorching desert and there’s not a cloud in the sky.”
God said, “Boys, get your shovels out and start digging ditches. You’re going to have so much water, by this time tomorrow you’ll need ditches to contain it all.”
When the sun rose the next morning, there still wasn’t a cloud in the sky … but, suddenly, water began flowing right through the desert, swirling around their ankles, filling those ditches. I guess far away, so far away it was completely out of sight … up in the mountains, there was a big storm that caused a flash flood. And all that water had nowhere to go, except down into the desert valley.
Who would have thought? Water in the desert!
What do you need God to do for you? Maybe you’d better get out your shovel and start digging! Because we have an amazing God!
Turn to God. Call out to Him in the day of trouble.


The 90/10 Principle

November 19, 2019
What’s the 90/10 Principle? 10 percent of life is made up of what happens to you; 90 percent of life is decided by how you react. Let me explain. We really have no control over 10 percent of what happens to us. A driver cuts us off in traffic. The car gets a flat tire. The plane is late, throwing your whole schedule off. We have no control over this 10 percent. The other 90 percent is different. You determine the other 90 percent. How? By your reaction!
 
Let’s use an example. You’re having breakfast with your family. Your daughter knocks over a cup of coffee onto your business shirt. You have no control over what just happened. What happens next will be determined by how you react.
You curse and harshly scold your daughter for knocking the cup over. She breaks into tears. After scolding her, you turn to your wife and criticize her for placing the cup too close to the edge of the table. A short verbal battle ensues. You storm upstairs and change your shirt. Back downstairs your daughter is too busy crying to finish her breakfast and get ready for school. She misses the school bus. Now, you have to drive your daughter to school. Because you’re running late, you drive 40 mph in a 30 mph zone. After a 15 minute delay and a $120 traffic ticket, your day just continues to get worse and worse. You can’t wait for the day to be over and you look forward to coming home. But when you arrive home, you find everyone is giving you the silent treatment. Why? Because of how you reacted in the morning.
 
Why did you have a bad day?
A. Did the coffee cause it?
B. Did your daughter cause it?
C. Did the police officer cause it?
D. Did you cause it?
The answer is “D.” How you reacted in those first 5 seconds is what caused your bad day.
 
Here is what could have happened – and should have happened. Coffee splashes over you. Your daughter is about to cry. You gently say, “It’s okay, honey, you just need to be more careful next time.” Grabbing a towel, you rush upstairs, throw on a new shirt, and head downstairs in time to see your child getting on the bus. She turns and waves. You arrive at work 5 minutes early and cheerfully greet the staff. Your boss comments on what a good day you’re having.
Notice the difference? Two scenarios. Both started the same. Both ended different. Why? Because of how you reacted. That’s why the Bible says, “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise, but as wise – making the most of every opportunity.”
 
Here are other ways to apply the 90/10 Principle:
 Suppose someone says something negative about you. How do you react? Don’t be a sponge. Don’t soak it all in. Let the attack roll off like water on glass. You don’t have to let the negative comment affect you!
 How about if someone cuts you of in traffic? Do you lose your temper? Pound the steering wheel? Who cares if you arrive 10 seconds later at work? Why let a stranger you never met, driving a car you’ll never see again, ruin your morning?
 Suppose you lose your job. Why lose sleep and get irritated? It will work out. Instead of putting your energy into worrying, put your energy into finding another job.
 
10% of life is made up of what happens to you.
90% of life is decided by how you react.
 
 
 


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.