Sunday, August 18, 2019

What Could Be Better Financial Security Than That?


A few years after we got married, Cindy told me what she was thinking on our wedding day as she walked down the aisle, I hope he will take care of me! In 1977, I had a part-time janitor’s job making $3 an hour while I attended seminary. What could be better financial security than that?

I had preached four sermons in my life by the time I had graduated from seminary. You’d think that hundreds of churches would come knocking at my door begging me to be their pastor. But not even a single church called. What could be better financial security than that?

After graduating, we loaded up a U-Haul truck and moved to Garden City, Kansas to plant a church. We had only been there one time, had no job, only a few dollars saved, and no place to stay. What could be better financial security than that? 

But we did trust God to provide for us. We never missed a meal, paid our bills on time, and constructed a church building debt-freeIt was like when Jesus sent out His disciples to preach and said, “Take nothing for your trip, neither a walking stick, bag, bread, money, or extra clothes” (Luke 9:3). 
Later He asked them to recall when He sent them out empty-handed: “‘When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?’ They said, ‘No, nothing’” (Luke 22:35). God provided everything they needed.

He promised to provide for those who trust Him. What could be better financial security than that? www.kentcrockett.blogspot.com  www.makinglifecount.net 
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Sunday, August 11, 2019

Try Doing the Opposite


Willard Harley in his book His Needs, Her Needs says relationships work like a bank account where you make deposits and withdrawals. Deposits are pleasant and friendly interactions with others, like smiling and speaking words of encouragement. Withdrawals are angry and hurtful encounters with others, such as frowning, criticizing, and arguing. If you’re making more deposits than withdrawals with an individual, you'll have a replenishing relationship. But if you’re making more withdrawals than deposits it will become a draining relationship and it will eventually go bankrupt.

In a Seinfeld episode, George Costanza was frustrated because every decision he made had turned out to be wrong. Jerry says, "Here's your chance to do the opposite. If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right." George realizes Jerry is on to something. If he acted completely opposite of his natural reactions, he might have better results. George said, "Yes! I will do the opposite!" By doing the opposite he found every situation always turned out in his favor.

It was Jesus, not Jerry, who said to "do the opposite" in Luke 6:27-28.
“When people hate you (withdrawal), do good to them (deposit).
When people curse you (withdrawal), bless them (deposit).
When people mistreat you (withdrawal), pray for them (deposit)”
In other words, respond to your adversary in the opposite way you would naturally react.

To make a valid deposit in another person's account, it must be in a currency that's acceptable to the other person's bank. What you like to receive may not be what others like to receive. My wife's "relationship bank" likes to receive flowers as deposits. However my bank doesn't accept flowers. My bank likes to sports paraphernalia as deposits. To build a relationship, give them something they would like to receive.

You can turn a bad marriage into a good one by building up the account balance. Stop making withdrawals (arguing) and make ongoing deposits into your spouse's relationship bank (having fun together). If you’ll make more deposits than withdrawals, the relationship will change from negative to positive. And you can take that to the bank. www.makinglifecount.net
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Sunday, August 4, 2019

The End of Your Rope is the Beginning of Hope


Do you live where never is heard an encouraging word and the skies are cloudy all day? And no one appreciates you, right? I hear ya. Sometimes you must get to the end of your rope to experience God in a new way.

During the 1930s, dozens of men were holding ropes to a dirigible (an airship similar to a blimp) to keep it from floating away. Suddenly a gust of wind caught one end of the dirigible, lifting it high off the ground. Some men immediately let go of their ropes and fell safely to the ground. But one man kept clinging to the rope as the nose of the dirigible arose to greater heights. He continued to dangle high in the air for forty-five minutes until he was rescued. Reporters later asked him how he was able to hold on to the rope for so long. “I didn’t hold on to the rope,” he replied. “I just tied it around my waist and the rope held on to me.”

Has discouragement drained every ounce of energy out of your heart? Does the end of your rope mean the end of your hope? Nope. Psalms 42:5 says, "Why are you in despair O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God." 

The end of your rope is the beginning of hope. It’s the place where you stop trusting in you and start trusting in God. The end of your rope is where you discover that God’s mercy and grace to hold you up. Instead of letting go of your rope, let the rope hold you up. Put your hope in God. www.makinglifecount.net 
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Sunday, July 28, 2019

Crosses Traded Here

According to legend, a Christian who was weary from carrying his cross passed through a small village. He noticed a sign in front of a store that read, "Crosses Traded Here." Thinking his load was unfair and his cross too heavy, he decided to enter the store. He was amazed to discover it was filled wall to wall with crosses. He told the owner, "My cross is really heavy. I’d like to trade it for a different one."

The owner replied, "Very well. You can trade your cross for any one of these crosses carried by the saints throughout the ages. Choose the easiest one."

The man compared the crosses for size and comfort. He picked one up, but it was much heavier than his. The next cross was even heavier. He kept picking up crosses but they were all too heavy. Finally, he came to the last cross and picked it up with ease. "I'll trade my cross for this one," he told the owner. "But sir," the owner replied, "that is the cross you carried in here!" (Slaying Your Giants p.161, $7.99)

Jesus said to take up your cross daily (Luke 9:23). But what does that mean? Some people wrongly believe that carrying your cross are the burdens God adds to your load for following Him. NOT TRUE! Carrying your cross means there are people in this world who will persecute you for following Jesus. The world hated Jesus so much that they nailed Him to a cross, and they will also try to crucify His followers through hate, slander, and persecution (John 15:18). "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you and example to follow in His steps" (1 Peter 2:21).

If you think your cross is too heavy, remember that God will give you the grace and love to withstand the hate you are receiving. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
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Sunday, July 21, 2019

Have You Been Conditioned to Respond?


Does the name Pavlov ring a bell? Ivan Pavlov proved that two stimuli repeatedly linked together can produce a conditioned response. He observed that dogs would salivate when they were about to be fed. Pavlov rang a bell each time prior to feeding the dogs so they would associate the bell-ringing with dinner time. This conditioned them to salivate in the anticipation of being fed because bell ringing and eating were linked together.

This explains why you crave popcorn when you go to the movies. You’ve eaten popcorn so many times as you’ve watched movies that popcorn munching and movie watching are connected together. Now you cannot watch a movie without eating popcorn—and you’ll even pay outrageous prices to get it!

Let’s suppose a dog named Fido was frequently beaten by his master. The recurrent blows conditioned him to associate the stick with pain. One day a boy picked up a stick to play fetch with him. When the dog sees him with stick in hand, a bell rings in his mind and he runs away with his tail between his legs.

Now, replace Fido’s name with your name, and replace the stick with hurtful words. After someone has repeatedly mistreated you, you’ve been conditioned to either fight back or run away. Husbands and wives who continually argue and fight have been conditioned to react to each other. They’ll say, “You always (fill in the blanks)” or “You never…”

But God wants you to follow different instructions: “Not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead” (1 Pet. 3:9). Don’t let abusive people condition you to react in the wrong way. Instead of returning the insult, turn it around and condition them to soften their hearts with your blessings. It’s God’s way. www.makinglifecount.net
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Sunday, July 14, 2019

What If The Words You Say Come to Pass?


When George Foreman was a small boy, his father planted a seed of greatness in his mind about his future. His dad often raised George’s hands over his head as if I had just won a boxing match, and he’d shout, “George Foreman, heavyweight champion of the world! Stronger than Jack Johnson. Hits like Jack Dempsey!” (George Foreman, God in My Corner, p.116)

He planted an idea in his mind at 4 years old and continued saying it until he was a teenager. His words became reality. George became boxing's Heavyweight Champion of the World—twice!

When Gideon was hiding from the Midianites, an angel appeared and said, “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior” (Judges 6:12). Valiant warrior? He hadn’t even fought a battle yet! But that angel could see his future and planted the idea in his mind of what he would become. Gideon defeated the Midianites and led Israel as a judge for forty years. And it all began with declaring him to be a courageous warrior.

Parents can shape their children’s destinies by speaking encouraging words about what they can do, almost like a prophecy about their futures. Fathers who lived during the Old Testament days would bless their children concerning their futures. They believed their prophetic words would come to pass one day, which they did.

Don’t curse your children by saying, “You can’t do anything right.” Instead, speak words of blessing to them, “You’re going to do well in life. God has good plans for you!” www.makinglifecount.net
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Monday, July 8, 2019

Softball Team Helps Their Opponent Win


An incredible display of sportsmanship occurred when Western Oregon played Central Washington University in 2008. At stake was a bid to the NCAA’s Division II playoffs. With Central Washington leading 2-1, Western Oregon’s Sara Tucholsky hit an apparent three-run homerun. All she had to do was run around the bases.

But when Tucholsky reached first base she collapsed, having torn a ligament in her knee. She couldn’t finish rounding the bases and her run wouldn’t count. The rules prohibited her teammates from helping her around the bases. If they touched her, she would be called out. 

But then a player on the opposing team, Mallory Holtman, asked the umpire if the rules disallowed the other team from helping her. The umpire said nothing in the rulebook prohibited them from assisting her.

Holtman and a teammate picked up Tucholsky and resumed her homerun walk, pausing at each base to let her touch the bag with her uninjured leg. “We started laughing when we touched second base,” Holtman said.
“I wondered what this must look like to other people. The entire Western Oregon team was in tears.” “My whole team was crying,” Tucholsky said. “Everybody in the stands was crying. My coach was crying.”

Western Oregon won the game 4-2. Central Washington forfeited the playoffs so they could help their injured opponent. Some things, like helping a hurting person, are more important than winning ball games. (Slaying Your Giants, p.112, $7.99)

Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). When you swap places with others to feel how they hurt, you've taken the first step toward loving your neighbor as yourself. www.makinglifecount.net
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Monday, July 1, 2019

Surrender Your Weaknesses To God


When Mordecai Brown was a child, he dreamed of becoming a professional baseball pitcher. His dream was dashed when his hand was mangled in a farm accident that severed his index finger, part of another finger, and broke his other fingers. The bones were not set properly so they healed in a deformed position. Even so, he tried rehabilitating by throwing rocks at knotholes on the barn wall. Over time he not only learned to throw again, but was able to throw an unusual curve ball because of the odd position of his fingers.

Amazingly, Mordecai, also known as “Three Finger,” became a pro baseball pitcher, winning 239 games in the major leagues and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Brown’s handicap enabled him to throw pitches with an unconventional movement that left batters bewildered—the curve ball that Ty Cobb called the most devastating he ever faced.

God loves to use your handicaps and weaknesses to confound those who feel superior.  “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong” (1 Cor. 1:27).

Surrender your weaknesses to God and then watch Him work through you. The Lord told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Once you see God using you, don’t take credit for it. Give Him all the glory. www.makinglifecount.net
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Monday, June 24, 2019

Fifi the Poodle & Charlie the Bulldog


Fifi the poodle told Charlie the bulldog, “I can open the door to the big house.” Charlie said, “No, you can’t. You can’t turn the door knob.” Fifi said, “All I know is when I scratch on the door, it opens.” Sometimes we won’t knock on a door because it looks impossible to open. But remember, you’re not opening it from the outside. God opens it from the inside.

Herod arrested Peter and imprisoned him. “So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God” (Acts 12:5). Although we don’t know for sure, they probably prayed, “Lord, send someone with keys to let Peter out. Lord, save the guards and have them free him.” Although they prayed for his release, they were caught off-guard by how God actually did it.

An angel appeared and woke him up, a light shone in the cell, Peter’s chains fell off his hands, the angel led him out of jail, and the iron gate opened by itself. (Acts 12:6-10). Peter went to Mary’s house where people were praying for his release. When Peter knocked on the door of the gate, Rhoda was shocked that he was already out.

She ran back to the prayer group and announced to them that Peter was standing at the gate. They told her, “You are out of your mind!” Like Charlie the bulldog, they couldn’t figure out how it was possible to open the door to the big house! God in His mercy answered their prayers anyway. (If God Knows What I Need, Why Should I Pray? p.124, $4.99)

Learn from Fifi the poodle. You don’t need to understand how the door will open. Just scratch and let God open it from His side. www.makinglifecount.net
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Monday, June 17, 2019

Jesus Never Took an Opinion Poll


Jesus never took an opinion poll to see how popular He was in Israel. He never said, “Peter, I’m really worried about what people think of me. Why don’t you take a poll to see how popular I am?” A couple of weeks later Peter returns with the results. “I hate to say this but your approval ratings aren’t good.”

57% say you argue too much with the Pharisees and you need to learn to get along with them;

68% believe you were too hard on the rich young ruler when you told him to sell everything he owned and to give it to the poor;

63% said your sermons about the camel going through the eye of the needle and casting a mountain into the sea were just too hard to believe;

86% say you need to stop talking about hell because it’s scaring everyone;

91% were really disturbed when you told everyone to eat your flesh and drink your blood or they wouldn’t have eternal life. You lost a lot of support over that statement.

Jesus only sought approval from His Father. He said, “I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 5:30). As His followers, we live to please God and it doesn’t really matter what other people think. Your approval rating from God will be the only poll that matters 10,000 years from now. www.makinglifecount.net
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Sunday, June 9, 2019

Poison in the Coffee Pot


In 2003, sixteen members of a Lutheran Church in Maine became violently ill after a church service. One member died. Doctors initially thought it was food poisoning, but tests revealed all the victims had large doses of arsenic in their blood. Investigators determined someone had put arsenic in the church’s coffee urn. Soon afterward, a church member committed suicide and left behind a note suggesting he was behind the poisoning. Police believe another person in the church may have been an accomplice.

There’s another kind of poison that’s killing off church members, often drunk with coffee cup in hand. It’s the arsenic of gossip. All the enemy needs is for a cooperating individual to add poison to the pot by starting a rumor. An undiscerning person quickly pours a cup of gossip and passes it along to others. Part of the information is left out, while wrong details are often added. As it spreads, it becomes even more inaccurate. 

God not only tells us to not gossip, but to not even associate with a gossiper. “He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip” (Prov. 20:19). Gossip not only ruins a person’s reputation, but it also infuriates God. Three of the things He hates are involved in gossip. “There are six things which the Lord hates . . . a lying tongue . . . a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers” (Prov. 6:16-19).

Don’t drink coffee with a gossiper, or you’ll be sipping arsenic before you know it. And you might be the next victim.  www.makinglifecount.net
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Sunday, June 2, 2019

You Can Change the Headlines


Years ago, the television show “Early Edition” was about a man who received an early edition of the Chicago Sun-Times the day before it was actually published. The newspaper’s headlines told the events that would happen the next day, unless he did something to change the future. He spent his day trying to prevent certain tragedies from occurring that he had read about in the newspaper. The stories and headlines in the newspaper would change to reflect the outcome of his actions. 

The prophet Jonah received an early edition from God saying Nineveh would be destroyed in forty days, so he went through the streets preaching that message. The people of Nineveh took his message seriously and repented of their sins, which changed the headlines. God spared the city (Jon. 3:1-10).

You also have received an early edition. You know someone who is going through a difficult time and needs your help today. You know people who need to hear the good news that God loves them. They are lost and need salvation. They’re confused and need guidance. If you’ll go talk to them about Jesus, their lives will be changed, which will alter their future for a better tomorrow.

Don’t just sit there. Go out and change the headlines. www.makinglifecount.net
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Sunday, May 26, 2019

Starting Over


A pastor friend told me about a woman who was going to sing a solo in his church. When she stood in front of the congregation, the pianist started playing. Because she hadn’t warmed up her voice, she started singing off-key and missed several notes. Realizing she had made a mistake at the beginning, she knew couldn’t keep singing that way.

The woman stopped singing in the middle of the song. Embarrassed and humbled, she turned to the pianist saying, “I’m really sorry. Could I please start over?” The pianist flipped back the pages of her music and began playing the song again. This time the woman sang the song perfectly as it was meant to be sung.

After she finished and took her seat, the pastor told the congregation, “What you just witnessed is a picture of God’s grace. She made a mistake. She humbled herself and apologized. And then she asked for a chance to start over and sang perfectly.”

When Jesus healed a man who had been lame for thirty-eight years, He told him, “Do not sin anymore, so that something worse doesn’t happen to you” (John 5:14). The man could start life over. Now he could walk to new places, both good and bad. Jesus warned him about making wrong choices because something worse could happen to him if he did.

If you’ve had a bad start in life, you can start over. Acknowledge your mistakes and ask God’s forgiveness. Humbly ask Him for another chance to live differently. By God’s mercy and grace, you will do it better the next time.  www.makinglifecount.net
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Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Sword First, Then the Hand


Admiral Horatio Nelson was an English navy hero who twice defeated Napoleon's army. Whenever he won in battle, he always treated the enemy prisoners with dignity. After one of his victories, the defeated commander was brought on board Nelson's flagship for a formal ceremony where he would surrender his sword.

The man quickly walked across the deck and stuck out his hand for the Admiral to shake. Nelson held his hand to his side and refused to shake his hand. Nelson told him, "The sword first—then the hand." It was an important point that couldn’t be overlooked. Surrender comes before peacemaking.

To be at peace with God we must first surrender our swords. We quit fighting against Him. When the commander surrendered to Admiral Nelson, he didn't keep fighting him. He handed over the sword and was at his mercy. When we surrender to God, we quit fighting Him and we do what He says.

We come to God on His terms. He tells us to forgive others (Eph. 4:32) but if we refuse to obey His instructions, we haven't completely surrendered. He tells us to honor Him with our wealth (Prov. 3:9), but if we don’t we haven’t surrendered. He tells us to flee immorality (1 Cor. 6:18-20), but if we don’t we haven’t surrendered. 

Do you want peace with God? Hand over your sword.
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