When Life’s a Lemon, Suck it Up!

This Title Was My Wife's Idea

You don’t have to live very long before you realize life doesn’t always make sense.  I know I’m a pastor and I’m not supposed to make those kinds of statements.  I know I’m supposed to have it all figured out and have it together, whatever IT is.  How about you?  Do you have it all figured out?  Here’s some proof you probably don’t!


In the eighth chapter of the book of Matthew, Jesus goes into the home of Peter.  Peter’s mother is laying in bed with a fever.  So Jesus touches her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them.  Every thing makes perfect sense up until this point.  She’s sick- Jesus heals her.

But then Matthew tells us more:

That evening many demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus.  He cast out the evil spirits with a simple command, and he healed all the sick.  This fulfilled the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, who said, “He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.” Matthew 8:16-17

Wait a minute, how could we know that unless Matthew told us?  Good question!  Chances are when you interpret that passage from Isaiah, you associate it with what Jesus did on the cross.  Isaiah is writing about a future event as if it’s already happened.

Why does prophecy have to be so tricky?  Glad you asked.  I don’t know.  What I do know is there are a lot of people who make predictions based on prophecy.  In some cases, there is not a lot of evidence to back up their claims.  Meanwhile, the intent of the original writer becomes fuzzy.

What’s wrong with trying to figure out the details?  Nothing.  The problem is when you start focusing on small setbacks in your life, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.  Was it a drag that Peter’s mother-in-law was sick?  Sure.  However, we all have setbacks in life.  We all suffer and go through trials and tribulations.  The good news is there is a bigger picture to consider.  In the bigger picture, God is in control and loves you.  He knew you’d need encouragement, so he left you with passages like Isaiah 53:4

Why is the bible so hard to understand?  Glad you asked!  It’s only hard to understand if you lose sight of the whole story.  In a nutshell, the bible is about ruin, redemption and restoration.  God spoke paradise into existence and placed man in it and they disobeyed him and sin entered the picture.  Throughout history, God set the stage for Christ to come on the scene and die for mankind.  Now God is in the process of restoring all things.  The bible is only hard to understand when you try to figure it out without keeping the whole story in mind.  We can endure sickness and heartache when we know God has a plan for our lives.

What did Jesus mean when he said we’ll do greater works?  Probably just what he said.  We are his body in the world.  Who’s to say what we’re capable of.  Perhaps we’ve already done more than we could ever realize.  If we knew, we’d probably be overly proud and hung up on ourselves.  Anyway, you can be sure God is perfectly capable of using you for his purpose.

Can we have an idea of how significant we really are?  Who knows.  Have you ever been sick or know someone who was?  Matthew tells is writing to an audience of Jews.  He makes a connection between the healing power of Jesus and Isaiah’s prophecy.  Matthew informs his readers that Jesus cares for those who are sick and possessed.  That’s good news, not just for them, but for you and I!

How hard is life?  Real hard.  Sometimes you get sick or discouraged and wonder why?  Sometimes it’s hard to put all the pieces together.  It’s real easy to get to the point where you wonder if anyone really cares, including God.

Remember, when I asked my wife for a title for this post, she jokingly said, “When life’s a lemon, suck it up!”.  Don’t believe me?  Go back and read the subtitle.  God knew this was the mantra of the world, so he left love notes like those found in Matthew 8 and Isaiah 53:4 to remind us just how much he really cares!  I don’t know what you’re going through right now, but I do know one thing, God’s got a plan!


What's the big deal about Easter?

Have you ever wondered about anything?  There’s something I’ve always wondered about Jesus.  In fact, as long as I live, I’ll probably still always wonder.


Before I tell you all about one of the major things that makes me wonder, lets talk about some of my minor wonders.  For instance, I’m amazed by technology.  I know it’s all evolved and improved, but still I’m left to wonder.  Last week, for example, I replaced a gasket on our front-loader washer and I thought to myself “the aliens must’ve designed this thing.”  You get the idea.  Not really amazing, right?

Jesus, on the other hand is truly amazing!  I know some of you have a hard time with him.  Well, not really him, but people who claimed to know him.  Ex-bosses, fellow workers, family members the guys who knocked on your door.  In a lot of cases these people had good intentions, yet they turned you off in some way through their business approaches, attitudes, actions and behaviors.  Some of you said, “If that guy’s a Christian, count me out!”  I get that.  I’ve been both of those guys at times.  Maybe you have too.  So, lets forget about ‘that guy’ for awhile and talk.  Lets talk about what the big deal is about Jesus.

We’ve all been wronged at one time or another.  In some cases we’ve been wronged by Christians.  There’s no denying that.  The question is how do we respond when we’re wronged.  That’s where Jesus turned the tables.  He said if you treat people the way they treat you, you’re average.  Jesus said, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.  But I say, love your enemies!  Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matt. 5:43-44).  He follows up by saying God waters the crops of the evil and the good.  He makes the sun shine on both of them.

But that’s not the way most people respond, right?  The Old Testament Law prescribed ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’.  That was a leap ahead of other cultures at the time!  What usually happens today, however,  is you do me wrong and I own you.  You kill my brother and I kill your whole village.  You don’t respond to my text, I erase you from my contacts.  You dis my post, I unfriend you.  You yell at me over dinner and I don’t talk to you for a week.  Lets face it, forgiveness isn’t one of our strongest traits.

The idea that God loves you regardless of what you’ve done is pretty amazing!  In many pulpits around the world this week, there will be strong cases made to support the fact that Jesus was crucified, buried and rose again after three days.  Is that amazing?  Yes.  But doesn’t it make perfect sense that God is able to do that if he’s truly God?  What truly sets Jesus apart is the fact that after all he went through for us- ultimately the loss of his own life- he is willing to forgive!  That’s a big deal.  The bible says, “According to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood.  For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).

Because you’re forgiven, you are able to forgive others.  That’s not natural.  Remember how we talked about Matt. 5:43-44?  Because you’ve been forgiven, you are able to forgive others, including your co-workers, friends, your boss, even your spouse.  Not just once in a while, but daily!  Why?  Because Jesus lives in you.

Imagine if you decided today, I’m going to start keeping short accounts.  Everyday’s a new day.  Starting today, I’m going to forget about everything people owe me from the past.  That has the potential to be life changing, right?

Chances are you know someone right now who needs to know that regardless of what they’ve done, God can forgive them.  It’s simple.  We’ve all sinned.  God sent his son Jesus to die for our sins.  He was buried and rose from the dead on the third day.  If we repent and believe, he will forgive us and give us eternal life.  It really is that simple.

Chances are you know someone right now who needs your forgiveness.  It might be the parent who abandoned you at a young age.  The person who molested you as a child.  Someone who hurt your family.  A boss.  Your spouse.  It’s your choice, but if God forgives you for all that you’ve done, doesn’t it make sense to forgive that person.  After all, they may have done a cruel, wicked thing to you, but they didn’t kill you, right?  Jesus, on the other hand, died because of what you and I did, yet he still forgives us.  Maybe you need to forgive yourself.

Don’t take this the wrong way, but the real wonder of the world is not that Jesus rose from the dead.  That had been predicted for centuries.  He was the Son of God.  God could do that as easily as you or I get out of bed.  He’s all powerful.  The real wonder of the world is that….he forgives sins!  We killed his son, we put him through hell, yet…. he’s willing to forgive us….heal us….love us like sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.  That’s Good News!

So congratulations!  If you’re a Christian, you’ve been forgiven.  And if you’re not, Congratulations! Jesus forgives sins!  There’s still time.  That’s the wonder of the world.  Someone who never sinned himself, was willing to pay for ours.  For yours.  For mine.  In fact, someone who was injured and killed because of you and I, is willing to forgive us and spare our souls for all of eternity.  We can get off Scott-free, because of this unspeakable gift, you can have a life that matters.  Your love is not in vain.  You will be reunited someday with your friends and loved ones forever.  What are you waiting for?  Who do you need to forgive?

This week is a great opportunity to share with someone the fact that God is willing to forgive their sins.  Think about that.  God forgives my sins.  God forgives my sins.  Wow!


Lets TalK About the Source

One of life’s ironies is that you need to exercise confidence when you least possess it most.  I don’t know if that’s good English, but it’s true.  If you look back in your own life, you’ll see it’s true.  Maybe it was the loss of a loved one.  You had no idea how you were going to keep going, but you did and now look how far you’ve come.  So lets talk about that!

don-knotts-400679_1280Barney Fife was a walking contradiction because though he clearly lacked confidence, he was courageous in that he still saddled up despite all of his fear and weaknesses.  And we loved him for it, right?  Then there was Andy.  He was always calm, cool and collected.  The opposite of Barney, he had every reason to be confident, but his confidence clearly flowed from a deep hidden recess invisible to the naked eye.

Last week we said confident people don’t depend on their own strengths, they depend on the strengths of others.  The Leper knows he cannot heal himself, but knows one who can.

FIRST, THE ONE WHO CAN  Picking up from last week.  The one who can is Jesus!  And this is what Jesus has to say about the man you’re going to meet this week, “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel (Matthew 8:10)”.  Quite a compliment coming from Jesus, wouldn’t you say?  You can read the whole story in Matthew 8:5-13.  Long story short, the guy Jesus was talking about was a powerful leader in the Roman military who had a sick servant and he knew Jesus could help him.  Chances are you want to learn more about the one who can if you’re reading this post.  So, what are you needing right now?  Not yesterday or tomorrow, but right now.  Why not trust and ask the one who can?

BUT HOW?  Ironically, like the Leper, the Centurion simply stated his case, “Lord, my servant leith at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.  And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.  The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed (Matt. 8:6-8)”.  The centurion goes on to explain that as a leader he understands the power structure.  A leader gives an order and the servant or soldier carries it out.  Again, his confidence is not in himself, but a GREATER leader!

BRAGGING RIGHTS  Imagine if Jesus bragged on you because your confidence in him was so great!  Look what he said about the centurion, “When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.  And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:10-11).  Wow!  Imagine if the same could be said of you or me?  Chances are this story isn’t included just to highlight the centurion’s faith.  Most likely, his story is an example of what happens when you trust God for great things!

A GLOWING FUTURE Carey Nieuwhof recently said “The past is your future with the lights on”, or something along those lines.  Apparently it’s a quote from a song.  Anyway, think about that!  You designed the life you’re living right now, in the past.   In other words, the choices and habits you exercise today determine the quality of the life you’ll live tomorrow!  Powerful thought, isn’t it.  But before you start beating yourself up, why not decide to start changing the future today.  Pray.  This is what Jesus had to say about those who choose not to exercise faith like the centurion did, “But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:12).  I don’t really know what all of that looks like and I don’t want to know!  But….if you look around, it’s quite obvious many people are suffering today as a result of the poor choices they or someone close to them made in the past.  It’s called the principle of sowing and reaping.

FRESH FRUIT “And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour” (Matt. 8:13).  Instant results!  But before you get too excited, you need to understand this isn’t the way it always works.  Still, who can tell?  God may just answer your prayer as quickly as he did for the centurion.

SO.  What’s stopping you from trusting the one who can?  Is it because your case is impossible?  What’s more impossible looking than an incurable disease and looming death?  Only one thing.  Jesus.  Imagine.  The actions you take today have the potential to change your life for all of eternity.  Why not go to him and state your confidence in his abilities and watch what happens?



You Can Move Beyond the Limiting Power of Unbelief

If you’ll take a moment to reflect, you’ll see that some of the greatest moments in your life happened when you were confident.  It took confidence to make a new friend when you were younger.  It took confidence to ask your spouse out on a date.  It took confidence to turn right at the crossroads when everyone and everything else in you and around you was telling you to turn left.  So if confidence has paid off so well, wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to become more confident?


Confidence isn’t something you master, it’s something that masters you.  When I look back in my own life, it’s amazing to see how little confidence I had at times but how far a little confidence went.  Time and time again, I was faced with large looming decisions I couldn’t internalize and figure out, yet things worked out better than I could have ever imagined once I took just one small confident step.  It takes confidence to put one foot in front of the other, but if you will, the returns are amazing!

Sadly, if you think about some of the most unhappy people you know, there is no evidence of confidence in their lives.  They’re always so busy playing it safe and making calculations.  In their pursuit of safety, they’re lives are no longer exhilarating.  Instead of life being an adventure, it becomes a series of reruns and regrets.  Same stuff, different day.  Some of them will even tell you they are exercising faith!

Here’s a guy whose life was radically transformed because he stepped out in confidence.  ‘When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. 2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 3 And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.  And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them’.  Matthew 8:1-4 KJV

In the next few weeks we’ll be taking a look and talking about confidence.

Here are four thoughts on how to be more confident!


Imagine how much your confidence would grow if you were a leper and you were healed in an instant! That’s what happens in this story found in the first story found in Matthew Chapter 8.  A Leper is healed by Jesus.  The ironic part is multitudes had just heard Jesus preach and teach and yet only one person mustered up their confidence in Jesus.  Notice how confident he is.  He doesn’t ask Jesus to heal him, he tells Jesus the facts.  Notice, what he says, ‘Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean’.  Here was a guy with a seemingly hopeless condition, but one small display of confidence transformed his future!  His confidence opened the door to a whole new world.  So….when was the last time you openly displayed your confidence in Jesus?  When was the last time you said to him, ‘Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean’.  Until you take that next small step, your confidence in him will not grow.


Notice what confidence is.  The leper was not confident in his own abilities, he was confident in the abilities of Christ.  Author Bob Beaudine has written an excellent book about this called ‘The Power of Who’.  Confident people place their confidence in the people around them.  You may not be able to solve the problem you’re facing on your own, but chances are you already know someone who can.  Who is it that possesses the abilities to solve the problem you’re currently facing?  What if you got in touch with them and explained your situation and said, ‘Look, I’m calling you because I believe you can help me’.  Trust me, you’ll be amazed when you do!  Right now, you’re cringing at the thought of me.  You don’t want anyone to know there are chinks in your armor.  Never underestimate the powers of those who love you and their willingness to help.


Imagine if the Leper had told himself there was just no way.  Imagine if he’d waited and tried to figure out how it all looked on paper.  One man touching another man and healing him in an instant makes no sense on paper!  YES, reason is a God-given ability and you should exercise it.  The problem occurs when you you are unwilling to believe beyond your own reasoning.  So why is it that you are only willing to take the next step after you can reason it all out perfectly?  For example, it takes no confidence whatsoever to pursue personal dreams if you can accomplish them without God.  If your dream is something you can accomplish on your own, chances are you won’t need any confidence to achieve it.  The Leper, on the other hand, had a HUGE life-long dream of being whole and he knew it made no sense on paper to trust Christ, yet he did!  So what’s holding you back?  Is it the fact, that you’ve figured out you won’t be able afford to take this next step?  Did it take confidence to reach that conclusion?  No one said being confident was easy or that it makes sense.  It’s the very foolishness of confidence in the face of the impossible that makes it so attractive.


I know a guy who jokes that a benefit is not a benefit until you cash it in.  Behind this joke lies a wonderful truth.  Imagine what might happen if you start cashing in some of the confidence checks you’ve been entrusted with.  Maybe, the only thing holding you back is your signature!  How awesome is that thought?  Have you ever wondered why Jesus told the Leper in verse 4 to not tell anyone, but to go and show the priests and to offer a gift?  Me too.  Often, when Jesus told people not to tell other people, they did just the opposite.  Perhaps Jesus wanted the Leper to show the Priests his wholeness and offer a gift because both of these are tangible expressions of the fruits of confidence.  When your in the business of dealing with the supernatural, it’s so easy for everything to become mundane.  New life is life-giving, especially when everything seems dead.  Either way, gifts are for others, they’re free and we share them.  So when you exercise confidence or faith and there are rewards, remember the example of the Leper.  Everybody loves free gifts, so if you’ve been gifted, look for opportunities to share them with others.


Despite your track record, you can start being confident today!  In the meantime, have an awesome week!  While you’re at it, what’s the next step of confidence you’re going to take?



What’s going to happen if you don’t lead?  Nothing.  Why?  Because leadership matters.  However, while leadership is important, there is something even more important!


Before we boil this down, lets think about it.  Maybe you had a younger brother or sister who followed you everywhere you went.  Now remember, at that point you hadn’t accomplished much of anything.  Right?  O.K, maybe you were taller or you could run faster.  Maybe you were a better basketball player.  But other than that, there were people out their with far greater accomplishments than you.  So what made your little sister or brother look up to you they way they did.  Chances are it was because you had a good relationship with them.  Moreover, they’d known you their entire life and you were one of the first people they had a relationship with.  They did not idolize you because you were taller, smarter or faster- though that may have been part of it- they followed you because you had a relationship.  And chances are they followed you less when your relationship was strained.

Fast forward now.  If you’re not careful, you can make the mistake of focusing on only one person as you pursue leadership- yourself.  You can fall for the lie that it’s all about you.  That you have to put yourself first if you want to get ahead.  You see it in the headlines.  On the news.  Lets face it, you’re living in an iGeneration.  It’s all about you, you, you.  If you don’t take care of yourself, who will?

We’re all wired to look out for #1.  As a leader, the danger arises when you become self-absorbed and neglect others.  Life becomes a sprint toward the top.  If you walk on others in the process, so be it.  The key is your accomplishments.  Your advanced degree.  Your reputation.  Your resume.  Nobody said it has to be that way.

Up until the time of Christ, it was common to boast about your own credentials.  People bragged about the wars they’d won.  The homes they owned.  Their wealth.  You name it.  People considered humility to be shameful.  Why go to the bottom of the heap when you could be on top.  Jesus on the other hand, humbled himself and pitched his tent among us.

So what is more important than accomplishments?  Relationships.  Everything moves at the speed of them and flows out of them.  No relationship, no leadership.

The reverse is true.  Leaders don’t focus on their own accomplishments, they focus on the accomplishments of others.  They bring out the best game in others.  In the process, those they lead make sure they get all the recognition and promotion they could ever want.

The world’s best leaders have figured out that their torch loses nothing by kindling the torch of another. They understand it is more blessed to give than to receive.  They don’t look for others to light a fire in them, they ignite others

The great news is there are potential leaders every where you look.  You can find them in the marketplace, on the street corner, at work, in the church and in your own home.

Jesus said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” Matt. 6:19-20.

If you look back in your own life, you’ll find the people you influenced the most, were not impressed with your accomplishments, they were impressed with you.  They knew you had their best interests in mind….that you cared for them.

Chances are if you’re leadership is suffering right now with a particular person it’s because your relationship with them is limping.  Don’t stop there.  Take the first step.  As a leader, it’s your job to reignite the relationship.  Call them.  Arrange a get together over coffee.  Send them a note of encouragement.  But whatever you do, don’t expect them to follow if you’re not leading.

Those who follow you could care less about your trophies.  What they really want is to know that you care!