Feeling Bad About Yourself
Would you like to have no good reason to feel bad about yourself? Then let Jesus forgive everything you’ve ever done bad. While you’re at it, would you like a good reason to feel good about yourself? Then believe everything God promises to give you if you surrender your life to Him and receive His forgiveness: His love, His joy, and His peace! Because the Pharisees refused to allow Jesus to forgive them, they minimized what they’d done bad and so ultimately felt bad. On the other hand, the notorious sinner who washed His feet with her tears knew how bad she was compared to Jesus, and so was able to receive His complete forgiveness and feel good. And guess what? So, can you! Feel good today! Let Jesus forgive you.
The Worst Mission Experience Ever
Some experiences in life brand us. I was on a mission trip years ago with doctors, nurses and medical supplies to a remote village in Uganda. Hundreds had walked a full day to get eyeglasses and much-needed medicine. By the end of the 2nd day, we were out of everything. Yet, there were still 75 people who had received nothing. All we had left were 50 tiny bottles of shampoo. The final visual that haunts me today was a male nurse with tears running down his cheeks surrounded by a hundred clamoring, outstretched hands mobbing him while grabbing for what they really didn’t need. The scene was heart-wrenching, but through the painful memory, I am reminded of how much we in America have and take for granted. Be grateful for what you have. None of us have been short-changed.
Thermometers vs. Thermostats
Here’s a question I bet you’ve never been asked: are you a thermometer or a thermostat? A thermometer is an instrument that measures temperature, whereas a thermostat is a device that regulates temperature. The hero of my childhood, Dr. Martin Luther King, said the church is to be, “…not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.” Brilliant, and challenging! What do I believe: a collection of ideas that are popular before flawed humanity, or a clarion call of conviction modeling the timeless life and character of my courageous Creator? What others think is infinitely less important than what the eternal God knows is true. Whatever you do today: be a thermostat, changing the temperature of those around you.
It’s Not Easy Being You
Would it surprise you if I said it’s easier being someone else than being who God created you to be? It’s easier skiing in someone else’s wake than creating one yourself. Olympic runners, cyclists, and skaters all race behind someone else. It’s called drafting, and it reduces drag by exploiting the lead objects slipstream. But, at some point, if you want to win the race, you’ll have to make your own wake, create your own draft, and cast your own shadow. Only then will you realize, it’s not easy being who God created you to be, and unless you receive the grace and power of God, you’ll let others lead you, never becoming the one-of-a-kind original God imagined. Sure, it’s not easy being you, but in the end, it will all be worth it.
Let God Do the Heavy Lifting
Do you feel weighed down with pressure? At times, we all do. It’s then we have to examine what are we carrying. A recent survey found that millennials (those in their 20’s and early 30’s) are experiencing more stress than boomers (people in their 60’s and early 70’s). So it seems, peace of mind and rest for our souls is getting harder to find. But, we were never meant to carry the weight of the world. Jesus offers us a much better way to live, “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30, NLT) We know we’re carrying the weight God intended for us when we let Him do the heavy lifting.
Someone Prayed For You
If you are a follower of Jesus, someone was praying for you whether you knew it or not. God uses prayer (relational connection to Him) to initiate His will on Earth. It may even be more absolute than we realize. The Bible says, “For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7, ESV) The founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, believed: “God can do nothing unless someone was praying.” You may not have known who was praying for you, but know this for sure — someone was. And this begs the question: who is God putting on my heart today for me to pray for? I may never meet them face to face on Earth, but my prayerful connection to God may be the difference-maker in their lives.
Extraordinary, But Not the Exception
The lives of many people in the Bible and throughout Church History have been extraordinary, but God never intended them to be the exception. At times, the exceptional past of history’s giants inspires and even provokes me, but it was never meant to intimidate me. I can’t run on the fumes of my yesterdays or anyone else’s. The day I let what others do intimidate me, instead of inspiring me, is the day I become a Pharisee. Jesus came to inspire, but some chose to let His character and authority intimidate them. He offered them an exceptional life, but they chose instead to be the exception. The day I believe I’m extraordinary, is the day I see God’s true intention for my life. My life is extraordinary, but God never intended it to be the exception.
Feeling Not Good Enough
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get so discouraged, I feel like the song lyric: “There’s always a reason to feel not good enough.” But there’s actually a good reason why we feel not good enough. It’s because we’re not! The Bible says, “No one is righteous— not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away…No one does good, not a single one.” (Romans 3:10-12, NLT) That’s why we need God’s mercy and forgiveness. Jesus added, “…a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (Luke 7:47, NLT) When I surrendered my life to Jesus and received His forgiveness, I exchanged my unrighteousness for His sinless robes of righteousness and holiness. I stopped trying to be good enough and embraced His goodness. There is no one purely good, but God.
My older brother’s wife, Kathy, is the daughter of William Shea, the gifted lawyer for whom New York’s Shea Stadium was named. When I was a brand-new Christian, I was alone with Mr. Shea in my brother’s home. Lacking tact, I quoted the scripture, “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” (Matthew 19:24) I had cornered him, and though he was gracious, he was never alone with me again. It was the epitome of zeal without wisdom. Years later, his 11-year old grandson, Victor Thomas, born with learning disabilities, had the privilege of doing what I did not do: he led his grandfather and grandmother to Jesus. Memorizing an evangelism booklet I had written, Victor Thomas made up for my insensitivity.
The Difficulty of Doing God’s Will
Though God wants us to know His will, I’ve personally found it is at times very difficult to do it. Consequently, I now believe that this incredibly difficult goal is not an accident. Recently, I found an old message I had preached 40 years ago about knowing God’s will. In it, I listed nine times as a young Christian where I was struggling to know God’s will. I never made any massive mistakes, but I got off track a few times and had to repent. During that season, I ate so much humble pie I could have opened a bakery. I’ve come to the conclusion: God makes it hard to know and do His will, so we have to get to know Him in the process. Cultivating a relationship with God is what life is all about.
“I’m Going to Kill You!”
My life was threatened on many occasions when I pastored a Christian community in the late 1970’s. For 52 months, we ministered to dozens of individuals struggling with drugs and alcohol addictions. The first time I asked a man and his family to leave the community, it was because he was sneaking and doing drugs. He got so irate, as I walked away with my pastor, he yelled, “I’m going to kill you!” My pastor immediately whispered, “Don’t take it personally.” Wise advice, though it sounded somewhat ridiculous at the time. I realized I couldn’t take personal attacks personally, and came to the conclusion…either God is able to protect me, or I can’t be protected, believing the verse, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
The Ridiculous Leads to the Miraculous
Would you believe we at times need to do the ridiculous in order to experience the miraculous? Remember the story of Jesus putting mud and spit in a blind man’s eyes? Or, when He ate food in the home of contagious lepers? How about the over 100 years of absurdity when Noah built an ark in preparation for a flood? Even though it had never even rained before. Or when the insulted Syrian General Naaman, was told he had to dip in the Jordan River seven times in order to be healed of leprosy? And then there is perhaps the most ridiculous act of all, bringing about the greatest miracle of all time: God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, dying on a cross for the sins of the world.