God Never Wastes a Hurt

Why It's Not Too Late

When I was in my twenties, I didn’t just hit bottom, I dug a hole. I remember just wanting to disappear into thin air. All that would be left were some chalk lines on the pavement. Sorry no details here, I’m sure you have a story of your own.

The problem is that we all have a tendency to believe we can create our own happiness. If we just do a little more or better, than everything will be all right. We’ve bought the lie that if we just work hard enough our lives will match the stock photos where everyone’s hair is perfect and nobody has zits, let alone skeletons in the closet.

The bible says otherwise. It says someone, not just anyone, but Jesus, had to die for me….before I was even born! An innocent person had to die for the guilty. Me. You.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His [a]only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16 (New American Standard Bible).

I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel pretty good. Especially when I examine my own personal performance on a weekly, daily and moment by moment basis.

He loved me. He died for me. He was buried for me. And he triumphed over the grave. That’s really good news and it applies to you.

In the words of a song writer, “Living, he loved me. Dying, he saved me. Buried, he carried my sin far away. Rising, he justified, freely forever. One day he’s coming O glorious day!”

Have you ever wanted to be rescued? I think many people do. We saw that this past few weeks when people were buying Powerball tickets. Why? Because we honestly believe that a payout like that has the potential to fix everything that’s wrong with our lives.

I’m not against people who take chances. Faith means trusting God and taking a chance. Farmers take a chance and plant seed with the hope that it will produce a crop. As believers, we should be planting seed and taking chances. The bible says if we sow a lot of Tomato plants, chances are we will harvest a lot of Tomatoes.

What if you took a chance and trusted God with your life. Right now. “Heavenly Father, I’ve sinned. Please save me!” If that’s too fancy, why not just cry out “HELP!” He knows your heart.

If you fell into an icy river, you wouldn’t be shouting anyone fancy. A stander by on the banks would see your need and understand your simple cry for help. Why is it that we often feel like we have to figure our problem out before we ask God for help.
If your life is a mess right now, I want you to know that you’re not alone. We don’t have to live in this world very long before trouble and heartache comes along.

God created the world to be perfect. Paradise. Heaven on earth. Mega pixels beyond measure. There was no sin, no death. The Lion laid down with the Lamb.

Then sin entered the world and the picture began to change. There was friction between the first man and wife. The ground was increasingly difficult to work. Weeds and thorns popped up. Child bearing was painful. Their oldest son killed their youngest son.

For thousands of years it got worse. There were murders on the front page headlines. Horrors beyond horror. Rape. Greed. Entire populations wiped out. Deaths by arrows, death by stones. Death by strangulation….

Finally, when the timing was just right, God sent a Deliverer. A Messiah He had been predicting for thousands of years. Jesus!

When Jesus died on the cross, he died for us. He died for those in the past who foresaw his day and believed he had the power to save them. He died for all who would live in the future and need forgiveness. He died for you. He died for me.

How do we know? He arose from the grave after he was buried. That was no accident. It had been predicted. He showed that he was who he said he was and that he has the power to give eternal life.

Even if the story ended right there, it would be a good one. But there’s more. One day he’s coming back for us! In the meantime, we can live a life of purpose knowing that he loves us and meeting our needs.

What are you afraid of right now? What has you down?

There’s no problem that’s too hard for him!

He can restore dreams. Health. Relationships. Incomes. Hope. You name it, he’s got it covered.

Mostly, he wants to come and live with you. He wants to set up home in your heart and give you a hope beyond your wildest dreams.

Paul had this to say about Jesus’ death on the cross and how it changed his life, “What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.”

Paul realized there was nothing he could do to diminish or gain God’s love for him.

God’s love does not change. Once we accept it, it’s ours forever. It never waxes or wanes, it’s always full, whole and perfect. God is in the process of working everything that has happened in our lives for good. The good, bad and the ugly. Why? Because he knows we can’t do it on our own. Left to ourselves, we’d be miserable and hopeless. Only one person could pay for our sins and solve all of the problems of the world. They nailed him to a cross. Aren’t you glad?


Is Your Dad Glad?

How to Have a Long, Full Life

Have you ever had a time when you felt like you were failing in every area? Maybe even in your lowest moments you’ve wished you were someone else, that you had the advantages they had by birth. Then you could be a billionaire real estate mogul or a rich and famous musician.

Me too. It’s so easy to get our eyes off what we have and focus on what we don’t have. The end result is pain.

When it comes to our geneologies, it’s not that some things are too painful to talk about. The fact is that it’s healthier to focus on some details and forget about others when it comes to making peace with our origin and destination.

There’s a phrase in the bible that sums this up pretty well. Moses wrote, “Honor your mother and father. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12)”.

I’m going to climb out on a limb and say that there are many people who are not at peace with their past. Or their parents. God knew that we would find blame with our parents and so he recorded these words.

If you were to trace these feelings back to their origin, it all boils down to this. “God, it’s all your fault that I have the parents I have.” If you were to say that, you’re right. However, if you feel shorted because of this fact, your real problem isn’t your parents, your real problem is with God. He’s not wise enough, or loving enough, or kind….

Here’s another trap. When we don’t know what God is really like, it’s easy for us to imagine he’s just like our earthly father. Not true. While your earthly father may have godly attributes, he is not God. The fact that we all have imperfect dad’s is evidence that we all need a perfect heavenly father.

The good news is that we can all have a perfect heavenly Father. In another place, God says, “I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin” (Exodus 34:7).

Does that mean that you earthly father was perfect and that you should just forgive him for all of his faults in the past. No. Does it mean that you can though if you choose to. (Gulp) Yes! That’s just my opinion. But here’s what I’ve found. When we let others off the hook, we let ourselves off the hook. Life is too short to have hangups keeping us back.

The fact is that our heavenly Father is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

When we start looking to have our needs met by anyone other than God, we look bad and so does God.

For example, when we complain on the job and brag about God at the same time, God isn’t glorified. All they hear is that our God is not big enough to satisfy us.

If you have children, you know what I mean. Does it make you look good when your child has a temper tantrum at the check out line in Walmart?

Some thoughts on being satisfied with God and glorifying him.

Passions.  What are they? In the words of Eric Liddel, “God made me fast and when I run I feel his pleasure.” What is it for you? Are you carving out time to do the things you enjoy or ‘grinding it out’ so that you can do what you want sometime in the future. For me, it’s being in the woods. When the pressures of daily living mount, that’s where I head to get alone with God and calm my mind, will and emotions.

Others. Last weekend my son and I went to our first Yankees game. Aaron Judge hit two homers. The next morning I watched a Youtube video to see what his response would be. When asked what he thought about hitting his longest homer of the season, he said, “Not much”. Then he went on to give his team the credit for playing so well. Something magical happens when we give others credit rather than ourselves. In contrast, have you ever been around anyone who blames everyone around them for their lack of success?

Joy. As a parent, you know that when your children are most satisfied with you, you are most satisfied with them. For example, they like a shirt you surprised them with. Or a phone that you bought them. Or a word of advice that you gave them. In contrast, when your children are miserable it makes you miserable….if you let it. As you get older you realize that your children are going to go through times and seasons of discontent. It can only bring YOU down if you let it.  I can imagine some of your hearts are aching right now because your relationship with your child.  God wants to use this season to strengthen you and grow you if you’ll allow him to.  God wants you to reach the point where your joy is found in him, and not relationships, circumstances and income.

Work. Many people I talk to as a pastor want to know what God’s will is for them. Some even wonder what God’s perfect will for their life is. They want to know how they should spend every moment of their existence. As if God is some kind of director and there is a script floating around out there somewhere and they’re supposed to learn it and act in unison moment by moment. If God has one for me, I haven’t figured it out yet. As a pastor, I feel like saying, “If you find out, let me know.” What if we substituted the word work for will? Will seems kind of intangible. To me, work is more tangible. The work that God has for us is laid out perfectly clear in the Great Commission. Like most of the bible. He’s given us the plan and left it up to us to figure out the implementation.

I used to work construction. Every foreman had their own form of leadership and way of doing things. However, at the end of the day, they were all successful in completing their projects. Admittedly, some of the finished products were better than others. However, when everything was said and done, people were able to pull up to the gas pumps we installed and fill their cars.

Your job isn’t to be perfect. Your job is to be the best version of yourself that is possible. However, if you keep blaming your past and your parents for the state you’re in today, you’re not glorifying God. Father’s Day is a reminder to all of us to be thankful for not just our Dad’s but our heavenly Father who makes all things possible.


Stop Listening and Start Talking

The Life Beyond Your Comfort Zone

One day last Summer, the point where I turned for home was quickly approaching while jogging the bike path.  However, on this particular day I decided to keep running straight past my turn.  In fact, mentally I decided I was going to run twice as far today.  That’s when it happened.

Immediately, my mind was inundated with thoughts.  Things like, “You have to turn for home, you can’t do it!….”If you keep going, you’ll have to run twice as far than you normally do….”You hurt, there must be something wrong.”  You get the idea.  My body was telling me, don’t do it!

A wonderful lesson began to unfold.  I kept running, straight, past my turning point for home.  Farther away from my destination.  And as I did, guess what happened?  It wasn’t any more difficult than my normal routine.  In fact, I felt twice as good when I ran down the homestretch and crossed the finish line at my driveway.  When all was said and done, I’d ran TWICE as far as my normal routine.  How is that possible?

This is what happened.   When my body began to tell me I couldn’t, something greater began to tell me I could!  Up until that turning point, I’d always listened to my body, but amazing transformations take place when we stop listening to ourselves, and start talking!

I’d like to report that I do respond that way everytime a similar scenario plays out, but sadly, I don’t.  How about you?

What’s the impossible thing you’re facing right now?  What self-limiting beliefs are holding you back?

Is it a lack of confidence?  Finances? Family?  An employer?  What is it?  Maybe it’s time to stop listening and start talking to yourself.  It’s a silly illustration, but one you’ll remember- are you the little engine that can or the little engine that can’t?

The apostle Paul said it this way,”…work out your own salvation…for it is God who works in you…” —Philippians 2:12-13.  It’s not our wills that give us a problem, it’s something smaller than that.  How do I know? Because there is something far greater, working in us, namely God!  As Christians, we want to do God’s will.  We have the power in us, Paul says, we just have to work it out.  God is already doing a perfect job working in you.  Do your part, by using dynamite….that dynamite is obedience to his will.

Lets face it, our bodies lie to us!  They have a mind of their own.  They are like the animal who doesn’t want to work.  They lie and connive.  They cheat and rob us of all that God has for us.  They prefer the path of least resistance.  The only way to master them is to stop listening to them and start talking to them.

This isn’t a ‘no pain, no gain’ post.  Instead it’s an invitation to tune into your greater self and tune out everything that’s telling you it can’t be done, whatever ‘it’ is for you right now.  Chances are there is opposition because what you’re trying to do needs to be done and you’re the only one who can do it!

Just think, you were born at just the right time to be in the position to face the particular challenge you’re facing right now.  So lean into it with faith and stop listening to the opposition.  When you do, you may be surprised to find you’re capable of accomplishing twice as much as you think you can.



O.K, So Everything is Going Relatively Well….What next?

How to Live Beyond Being Happy

So maybe you’re six weeks into something new and things are starting to gel.  Or, it’s been a year since you lost your spouse.  Now you’re beginning to wonder what is next.

I remember being newly single in college and not knowing what to do.  Everything changed in an instant.  I didn’t want to do much.  Mostly, I thought about diving into the Saranac River and seeing how long I could hold my breath.  In retrospect, I just wanted to be numb to what was going on.  Ever feel that way?

Wanting to feel better is a natural tendency, however it’s not the only option.  Pretty soon, your comfort zone gets uncomfortable.  Stay inside the box for too long and you’ll suffocate.

It’s counter intuitive, but life begins outside your comfort zone.  Be it a new job, circumstances, challenges…illness.  There’s just something about embracing a challenge that is rewarding.

Years ago I met a guy in his eighties who was still taking college classes.  “I’m a life-long learner,” he said.  We all should be.  In the words of Bob Dylan, “He who is not living is dying.”

Here are some things you can do if you’re stuck in a rut.

Start something new.  It’s called a sigmoid curve. Google it.  When you reach the top of the learning curve and start declining, it’s time to start climbing again.  Challenge yourself in a new way.  Rewrite your business plan.  Learn Greek or Hebrew.  Offer a new service.  Start a new business or stream of income.  But whatever you do, start something new!

Find a new way To travel to work.  To spend time with your mate.  To spend money.  To save.  To improve your diet.  To study the bible.  To meet people.  To earn a living.  To have fun.  To network.  To grow.  To challenge yourself.  To donate.  To learn.  To write.  You get the idea!

Meet new people. New people bring new perspectives.  They teach you new things and allow you to teach them.  It’s a give and take kind of thing.  What kind of people do you need to meet to accomplish your goals?  A guy I just met used to be a salesman.  He would go to shoe stores and buy shoes that had damaged boxes or minor blemishes and give them to potential clients.  He’d attach a note that said “I’ll do anything to get my foot in the door.”  I wouldn’t have learned that unless I took the time to meet and learn from him.  Meet new people It will change your life.

Develop a new mindset.  Negativity gets us nowhere.  Write down some affirmations and review them daily.  Stop letting the weather or circumstances dictate the quality of your life.  Decide to be content with today, not this Friday or next year when you have your dream job.  Those kinds of tomorrow’s never come.  Learn to be content no matter where you are, Paul was.  Capture your thoughts in a journal.  Meditate daily- it doesn’t have to be for hours.  Start out for a minute or ten a day.  During that time focus on shutting out all distractions.  Occasionally focus on a the excellent things in your life and world.

Of course these are only some ideas to get you started.  Be creative.  Years ago I decided to take a leave of absence from my steady job to work at a summer camp.  One of the best decisions I ever made.  Had two incredible summers!  Summer’s here.  So what are you going to do about it?