When You Feel Like God Can’t Use You…

LAZARUSThe next time you feel like GOD can’t use you because of your sin, failures and shortcomings, remember…

Noah was an alcoholic

Abraham was too old

Isaac was a daydreamer

Jacob was a liar

Leah was an idolator

Moses had a stuttering problem

Rahab was a prostitute

Gideon was afraid 
& arrogant

Sampson was a womanizer

Ruth was a pagan

Jeremiah and Timothy were too young

David had an affair and was a murderer

Solomon was a philanderer

Elijah was suicidal

Jonah ran from God

Job went bankrupt

The Disciples fell asleep while praying

Martha worried about everything

The Samaritan woman had five broken marriages

Zaccheus was a swindler

Peter denied Christ

Paul was too religious

Timothy was too timid…

AND 
Lazarus, well, Lazarus was dead (and God used Him!)

God can use you for the good of others and for His Glory!

 

The above reading was written by John Ortberg.

 

 

 

 

 

“Life is but a Weaving” -Corrie Ten Boom

boomMy life is but a weaving

Between my God and me.

I cannot choose the colors

He weaveth steadily.

 

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;

And I in foolish pride

Forget He sees the upper

And I the underside.

 

Not ’til the loom is silent

And the shuttles cease to fly

Will God unroll the canvas

And reveal the reason why.

 

The dark threads are as needful

In the weaver’s skillful hand

As the threads of gold and silver

In the pattern He has planned

 

screenshotHe knows, He loves, He cares;

Nothing this truth can dim.

He gives the very best to those

Who leave the choice to Him.

-by Corrie Ten Boom

Absolutely Speechless – A story of forgiveness

Happy BrothersWhen we express Christ-like forgiveness to someone who has not even asked for it, the results often leave us absolutely speechless.

After my recent message from Genesis 45 on the forgiveness Joseph extends to his brothers, a young man named Jordan shared with me how he and his brother had not spoken in over 9 months. Jordan was agonizing over the broken relationship between the two because they were so close over the course of their lives.

Both married with kids, a break in the brothers’ relationship had occurred when Jordan’s sister-in-law began to demonstrate very bad behaviors as a result of a substance abuse problem. She had gotten out of control and Jordan had to make a decision not to expose his kids to her behaviors. As he communicated the hard decision to keep his kids away from his brother’s wife, a huge rift between the brothers occurred.

Words were exchanged and Jordan was deeply heart. When he approached me after the forgiveness message, there had been 9 months of silence between the brothers. Jordan asked me for some advice regarding his relationship with his brother (even as he told me that he had begun to forgive in his own heart during the sermon). He emphasized what I had emphasized. God calls us to forgive in our hearts those who have wronged us even when “I am sorry” never comes from them.

We prayed together. We prayed that the Lord would soften hearts. Jordan had clearly been very emotional during the end of the service. His sincerity to repair the brokenness was obvious. My heart was heavy for him as I prayed for the whole heart-wrenching situation between the two brothers.

That night Jordan emailed me telling me of the relief he had felt as he had begun the forgiveness simply in his own heart that morning at church. He then shared that 5 hours after we had prayed together his brother had texted him. Yep, after 9 months of cold, heavy-hearted silence, this simple unprompted text came: Hello, we miss you and the kids. Do you want to get together soon?”

Jordan simply concluded his email to me celebrating God’s answer to our prayer by saying: “I am absolutely speechless!”

Not every story of personal forgiveness sees immediate softening of hearts, but forgiveness always trumps bitterness. God works in hearts that are open to His renewing grace. Jordan opened his heart. God began to work way beyond what he every expected.

While I am praying for continued healing and restoration in this family, I too am “absolutely speechless” at God’s amazing grace in the midst of our brokenness! Are you holding on to a hurt, a wrong with which someone has wounded you? Forgiveness and restoration are not the same thing. But, if there is ever going to be restoration between you and the one who has wronged you, it will start with forgiveness!

My Theology Crisis from Death Row

Below is a 4:15 minute clip from my sermon Sunday, May 17, 2015. In the clip I talk about spending a few minutes with a man on death row at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (simply known as Angola Prison). God’s grace stuns me over and over again! My crisis of not wanting a brutal monster of a child killer to be forgiven challenged my belief in the person and work of Jesus Christ to my very core. I had to do some honest wrestling with God as a man, a father, and a pastor. I relate that story of my own personal theology crisis from death row in this clip.

I’m at Angola Prison for Returning Hearts

Returning HeartsWednesday evening I arrived at Angola Prison (Louisiana State Penitentiary) and will return to California Saturday evening. Awana Clubs and it’s subsidiary Awana Lifeline partnered with the prison over a decade ago to bring the kids of the inmates in for a day.

I will be speaking to the prisoners and their kids (1050 of them) during this year’s Returning Hearts day on Saturday. Pray that the Gospel will be clear! Pray for love, forgiveness, and grace between inmate father’s (who are here for life) and their visiting kids!

To get a glimpse of what God is doing here (it is a prison transforming revival), checkout the videos below.

Oh, by the way, Warden Burl Cain (who you will see in the videos) will be our speaker in all three services this Father’s Day at Calvary Community Church!

2010 USA Today Video (10 mins)

 

2014 Returning Hearts Highlight Video

Lives Woven Together By God Over Decades

This is a guest post by my friend Jim Fritz.

545836_445974348765208_362768282_nIt never ceases to amaze me how God weaves the stories of our lives for His glory! My name is Jim Fritz and I have been a quadriplegic since October 29, 1980. I am paralyzed from the shoulders down. I can’t move anything or feel anything below my shoulders. I am the administrator and principal of a small Christian school in Beckley, West Virginia. I have been serving in this capacity for six years, and prior to that served as a professor and Dean of Men at Appalachian Bible College in Beckley, West Virginia for 19 years.

A Sermon Illustration
A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to a sermon online by Pastor Shawn Thornton, Senior Pastor of Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, CA. Shawn has been a long time friend of mine. We met in Bible College in 1985 and have been good friends ever since. We were in each other’s weddings, we have ministered together, and we continue to keep in contact even though we live thousands of miles apart. As I was listening to Shawn’s sermon, he caught my attention when he started to use me as a sermon illustration. The illustration had to do with faith in Christ and how we can be confident that Jesus will keep us safe in Him.

He started to recall a time when he had come to visit me at my home in Medina, Ohio. I had just purchased a van that I could drive as a result of a meeting that I had with Joni Eareckson. It was outfitted with a joystick instead of a steering wheel and everything, including speed, braking and steering was controlled through it. It was kind of scary if you weren’t used to it. It was also very very sensitive to the slightest movement.

One Scary Ride
During the course of time as Shawn was visiting, we decided to go out to eat. I volunteered to drive. Shawn didn’t think much of it because he trusted that I would not do anything to put any of us in danger. That was the point of the illustration. He trusted me and willingly put his life in my hands. As I listened to the illustration, I chuckled because I felt his description of my character was a little exaggerated, obviously trying to make the point that I was one in whom he was able to put his full confidence.

Later that afternoon, I texted Shawn and told him that I enjoyed being used as an illustration in his sermon. In reality, as I was driving that van, I was scared to death. Not exactly one in who’s driving skills you would place a great deal of confidence. But, I thanked him for making me out to look so good and even exaggerated his descriptions of me a little more.

Shawn texted me back and told me he had a really neat story to tell me. Later that week we talked and this is the story he shared with me. Definitely a God thing!

Definitely a God Thing
487291_10151072535491388_2089225947_nShawn was sitting at the chiropractor’s office there in Southern California. While he was waiting for his appointment, one of the people that attended his church came in and started to make small talk. She indicated that her son was going to be home from the Air Force Academy later that week. Shawn said, “Oh yeah, I have a good friend named Jim that attended the Air Force Academy. He was in a car accident while he was a cadet there and is now a quadriplegic.” Her eyes got real big and she asked when that had happened. He told her that as best as he could remember, he thought it happened in the early 1980’s.

She was astonished because she said that her husband, Ken, had attended the Air Force Academy and was in an accident in the early 80s, and that a cadet riding in another car was injured so seriously that he was paralyzed for the rest of his life. She called her husband and she and Shawn started to compare notes and began to realize it could be the same accident. Truthfully, I knew very little about my accident (the focus after it for me was solely on my recovery). I didn’t even realize that there were other cadets involved, except those who were in the same vehicle I was in. It was then her husband, Ken, who put the dots together and realized that I was the one that was so seriously injured in the same accident he had been in.

34 Years of Prayer and Investment
Here’s the neat thing about this story. It turns out that Ken was never able to find out what happened to me after the accident. Shawn helped us exchange email addresses and telephone numbers and we have been able to catch up a little bit. Ken said that he and his family have been praying for me for 34 years (even as recently as last week at the dinner table), wondering what the Lord was able to do in my life. Ken had no idea where I was or what I was doing. He even prayed that I would accept Christ as my Savior. He also said that he and his family have been supporting Joni and Friends for 34 years in my name. Hearing this, I was thrilled and extremely humbled at the same time.

It has been my privilege to be in the ministry for over 30 years now, and much of it due to how good God has been to me after my accident. Joni has been instrumental in many ways, but so have many others, working behind the scenes, praying and interceding on behalf of others (even someone they did not know). Only God could weave the lives of Shawn Thornton, Jim Fritz, Joni Eareckson Tada and Ken Hasegawa in such a way. It really is a God thing!

Just thought this incredible story might be an encouragement to you!

In His Service, Jim Fritz