Mar 29, 2012

God Uses Our Failures

On Friday afternoon, I received a letter in the mail that contained some “bad” news. The letter came after a lengthy five month process of screening and interviews and tests for a volunteer position in the city where I live. The letter stated; “I regret to inform you that you are not selected for the position”.

In the past I had applied for other positions and jobs that I didn’t get and life went on to bigger and better things. But this position struck me a little differently and the letter invited me to call if I had any questions; so I did.

The person who had answered the phone said that I was not selected because of something that took place in my life twelve years ago. A failure in my past said that I was not usable.

“Twelve years ago?” I said to myself, “Really?” I knew that there were individuals already in the position I was seeking who had things from their pasts that certainly disqualified them.

But, I also knew that Jesus was Lord of my life and I would take this as simply the “yes” or “no” that I was praying about regarding taking this position, had I made it through the process.

The funny thing about not being selected for the position due to something that took place twelve years ago in my life is what took place during the week that followed.

On Monday night, I was part of a team of pastors who are helping another minister through a situation in his life. I was a part of the team BECAUSE of what took place twelve years ago in my life.

On Tuesday, I spoke to a pastor’s meeting about what took place twelve years ago in my life. I was asked to speak BECAUSE of what took place twelve years ago in my life.

In fact I have been sought out to speak on many occasions at pastor’s conferences, retreats, men’s meetings, church services, individual and premarital counseling all BECAUSE of what took place twelve years ago in my life.

After I went through my restoration process, a friend of mine who is also a pastor said to me; “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t walk with a limp.” What he was refering to was a story in Genesis 32 of the Bible. It is the story of a man named Jacob who wrestled with God; and didn’t quit until he got what he came for. When the wrestling match ended, the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint. Presumably, Jacob from that point on walked with a limp because he had wrestled with God on some matters.

You see, what we see as failures, mistakes, brokenness, sin; God sees as opportunities for future use when we submit to His restoration process. God used my past failure as a life lesson to minister to others.

God’s letter to me stated; “I am happy to inform you that you are selected for the position”

“Anything and everything is possible with God if we approach Him with a broken spirit. We must humble ourselves, get rid of the debris in our lives, and keep leaning on Him instead of our own understanding. Your future and mine are determined by this one thing: seeking after the Lord. The blessings we receive and then pass along to others all hang on this truth: ‘He rewards those who earnestly seek Him’ (Hebrews 11:16) –excerpt from pg.167 of the book; “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire” by Jim Cymbala with Dean Merrill © 1997 Zondervan. All Rights Reserved

How about you?
  • Are you still letting your past define who you are today?
  • Have you ever cried out to God?
  • Have you ever asked God to forgive you?
  • Have you ever asked God to help you to change in order for your story to be ministry to others?
You can; TODAY, get right with God.

Watch the video to see how.

Mar 22, 2012

Space Foods Sticks and Tang

I was almost 11 years old on July 16, 1969 when Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr.  landed on the moon. One of the excitements that surrounded that time was all of the items that you could purchase to be a part of the landing.

The hot items that all of us kids really wanted were “Space Food Sticks” and “Tang”. We knew that just like the astronauts, we also needed to eat the right things in order to have the proper nourishment for the strength to complete our mission.

Space Food Sticks were an energy snack in rod form containing nutritionally balanced amounts of carbohydrate, fat and protein wrapped in special foil to give them an added space-age appearance. The sticks came in several flavors including my own personal favorite, ‘peanut butter’. We, too, ate them several times a day so that we, too, would have the strength to complete the mission.

Tang (when I was a kid) was an artificial orange flavored powdered “breakfast” drink that was originally formulated by General Foods Corporation. Tang does not contain any fat or any protein and has several essential vitamins and minerals. We, too, drank Tang several times a day so that we, too, would have the strength to complete the mission.

Another item that I can still vividly remember my parents buying me was an “Apollo Snoopy” toy so that I too could be a part of the mission on the moon even though I was approximately 238,857 miles away. I would go through the drills with Snoopy to assure that he was in perfect condition and would have the strength to complete the mission.

When the astronauts came back to earth, NASA concluded that all mission tasks were completed satisfactorily. I, too, felt as though we had help complete the mission. I, too, shared in the glory of that moment in the history of mankind.

For some reason recently I recalled those glory days of eating space food sticks while playing with my Apollo Snoopy. I have since that time in 1969 replaced Space Food Sticks with protein bars and Tang with 5-Hour Energy and Gatorade to have the strength to exercise and play hockey.

In my ministry and my Christian walk, I also need to eat the right things in order to have the proper nourishment for have the strength to complete my mission. That includes time spent alone with God in Bible study, prayer, and worship. It includes time spent together with other Christians in Bible study, prayer, and worship.   

In the Bible is a story of a man named Elijah who learned that he, too, needed to eat the proper nourishment in order to have the strength to complete his mission.  The Bible reads; 

“Then he (Elijah) looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.(1 Kings 19:6-8) 

How about you? Are you eating “the right stuff” in order for you to complete your mission? Are you finding yourself running on fumes and full of hunger pains?

My advice to you my friend is to simply stop; and cry out to God. He is a Father who longs to provide food (natural and spiritual) because He loves you so very much. Ask Him to “give you your daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).

Rejoice knowing, as the Psalmist wrote:
The Lord upholds all who fall, And raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look expectantly to You, And You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand And satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Psalm 145:14-16)

“Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, "I have no pleasure in them". (Ecclesiastes 12:1)

Need further help? Someone is waiting to talk with you.

Call either:
     1-888-NEED HIM  or  1-877-2GRAHAM (1-877-247-2426).


"Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."

Mar 15, 2012

What are You Buying For Your Lamp?

As I have said in the past, one of the things that I like to do when I’m not playing hockey is to walk around hockey rinks to look for pucks to take home to my growing collection. Recently, while taking one of these walks, I wasn’t really enjoying the walk, not because I hadn’t found many pucks, but because it didn’t bring any real joy. I decided that I would drive to another hockey rink to look for pucks hoping to change my mood. 

While in route, a thought occurred to me; “Did I want Brasso or Oil for my lamp?” The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins came to my mind. It is a story from the Bible that tells of ten virgins who were all waiting for the Bridegroom to come:

 “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming, go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.  And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming."  (Matthew 25:1-12)

I continued on my way to the next hockey rink when once again the thought came to my mind; “Did I want Brasso or Oil for my lamp?” NOTE: Brasso is the brand name of a multipurpose product created to clean, remove tarnish and leave a brilliant shine on certain types of metal.

I replied, “I want fresh oil!”

“Then turn the car around and head home”.
I knew what that meant. If I want fresh oil for my lamp, I needed to respond and set aside time to spend with God; in communication, in worship, in reading the Bible, and in prayer. I needed to spend time with God.

The question before me had to do with how I would spend my day. Would I spend it “applying Brasso” to make who I was and my ministries look fresh and bright? Or would I be more concerned with what was on the inside which comes only from a relationship with Him.

I thought of Jesus’ words to the religious leaders two thousand or so years ago;

Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:26-28)

So, I headed home and spent the next several hours with God; in communication, in worship, in reading the Bible, and in prayer. and He filled my lamp with fresh oil ready to shine for His purposes.

"Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."

Mar 8, 2012

Unclogging Pipes

My house is one hundred years old in 2012. For one hundred years it has served several families as a place of rest and comfort from the storms of life. 

Needless to say there are little quirks from one hundred years of gravity pulling downward on the balloon-framed house. But I don’t see them as quirks, but rather as character that makes our house unique. And so I take pride in our old house and am grateful for how the Lord has blessed us. 

And so I say a hearty “Happy Birthday” to my one hundred year old house!    

One of the downsides of an old house is that there are also one hundred year old plumbing pipes in some areas of the house that I have not yet replaced. And old drain pipes mean that occasionally they plug up and need to be unclogged so that once again they can flow freely.  And when they back up, a homeowner needs to deal with them immediately before further damage is done to the rest of the house. 

One of the unfortunate things about this is that the pipes never seem to clog up at a “convenient” time. They seem to clog up when the washing machine is discharging during a rinse cycle, or when I try to drain a kitchen or bathroom sink just before heading out to a meeting. They also seem to clog up when it is really, really cold outside and unclogging the pipes involves frequent trips to the garage to get a tool or to a store to get a drain cleaning product.

To unclog pipes I have used a plunger and flushing the drains with hot water, and sometimes nothing seems to work. So, I resort to home remedy drain cleaners, handheld and electric drain augers, air burst drain cleaners, and, eventually, chemical drain cleaners like “Drano” or “Liquid Plumber”.

It can REALLY be inconvenient when we need to use sulfuric acid; a highly corrosive strong mineral acid that cleans the pipes really well, but leaves the whole house smelling like "rotten-eggs". Ah, the joys of owning an old house!

Occasionally, even our hearts will “plug up” and compassion stops flowing freely and we respond unkindly to those around us (and even to ourselves). 

One of the unfortunate things about our hearts is that, unlike a drain pipe, we may not see or understand that they are clogged until our tongues lash out at others who look to us for kindness and we leave the place where we are at smelling like "rotten-eggs" instead of like the fragrance of Jesus.  

Just like natural water pipes, we need to “unclog” our hearts as soon as we see that they are backing up; whether it is a convenient time to do so or not. The Lord wants to unclog  the pipes of our heart. 

To do this we need to stop wherever we are and to cry out to the Lord asking Him to: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10

The Lord wants us to come to Him to unclog our hearts. He said in the Bible: “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)

The Lord promises to give us a clean heart that is new: I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)

Jesus wants rivers of living waters to flow out of our hearts. Jesus said: He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38) 

Are you ready to get your heart cleaned up? Have you tried to clean up your life with no success? Are you tired of trying to do it your way? Call 1-888-NEED –HIM; someone is waiting to talk with you.

 "Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."

Mar 1, 2012

A Piece of Me

I was washing the dishes a few days ago from a family gathering that took place at our house. One of the items that was mixed among the silverware was a green colored plastic spoon. When I found the spoon, tears came to my eyes, not from pain but from love. You see, this wasn’t just an ordinary plastic spoon; this belonged to my granddaughter Fallon who had been over at the party.

And I realized that just as she left an item behind, she had “taken” with her a piece of my heart; and once again I missed being with her. 

Even as I write this I feel as though I must apologize that I am not writing about one of my own children; all of whom I love so very deeply. All of whom I also enjoy and cherish each and every time that I spend with them. As I write this, Fallon’s mom (my daughter Elizabeth) called to talk about something and it gave me a chance to express my gratefulness for how God has provided over the past few years to her and what a gift she and her husband Chris are to me.

But, I as I said, I am writing once again about my granddaughter Fallon who means so much to me. Sometimes when we part company Fallon waves; “See you later!” Sometimes she cries for me to hold her. Sometimes she just cries because she wants to stay with me.

Every time we part, my heart aches; and it takes some time to “get past it”. Many times I have driven home and it has taken several minutes for my heart to stop “hurting” and yearning to hold her one more time. And tears come to my eyes as I am filled with gratefulness for the gift that she is to me. And I long for the next time that we will spend together.

And I got to thinking as I washed Fallon’s green plastic spoon, “Does God feel that same way about me? Does He, too, long to once again spend time with me?"

These twelve months I have spent on a sabbatical as I transitioned back into full-time ministry to spend time with God and to seek His face; in communication, in worship, in reading the Bible, and in prayer.  Some days I would spend two to four hours a day of extended time with Him, other days it would be six to eight hours.

I know how these times impacted my life, but I wondered “Does God feel that same way about me? Does He, too, long to once again spend time with me?”

I realize that perhaps my writing today produces more questions than answers; and you know what, I’m really OK with that. I realize that perhaps He, like me with my granddaughter Fallon, yearns to once again spend time with me. I realize that my life takes a piece of His heart when we part and perhaps I really mean more to Him than I think. And once again, tears came to my eyes, not from pain but from love.

Maybe along the way you’ve forgotten God; He hasn’t forgotten you. Call out to Him, won’t you? God still wants you to come to Him through His Son Jesus Christ and let Him hold you and see Him face to face.
Call 1-888-NEED HIM. Someone is waiting to talk with you right now.