Monthly Archives: April 2014

No Excuses. No Regrets. You Can Live Free!

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Regrets

God interrupted Jerry’s young life with a radical challenge. “I’m choosing you to shake up this world. In fact, this is precisely why you were born! I’m going to use your life and words to pull up, tear down, take apart and demolish the old, and then we’ll start over by building and planting what I desire.” In utter shock he replied, “But God, I don’t know anything. I’m terrified of public speaking! Besides, I’m just a teenager and no one is going to listen to me.”[1]

Before you judge this kid too harshly, I wonder how many times you’ve said, “But God . . .” as you’ve offered up your extremely reasonable excuses for why something simply cannot be done by you.

But God . . . that’s impossible!            

But God . . . people will think I’m crazy!  

But God . . . I’m a mess!           

But God . . . that’s not in my wheelhouse of experience or gifts.

We are quick to point out the apparent absurdity of his expectations. Most of us have a finely tuned this-is-ridiculous meter that tends to function quite well when set off by the unexpected. We don’t have to dig very deep to find a reason to say no to God. Why? Because we are painfully aware of our past failures, our present weaknesses, and the future likelihood of repeating the same mistakes we’ve always made. We choose to believe that God can’t use us because we’re not strong enough, smart enough, or good enough.

Here’s something I need you to embrace and remember: Our past shapes us, but it doesn’t need to control us. Our history influences our future, but it shouldn’t imprison us. In Christ, we are more than the sum of our past mistakes.

I bet I’ve had a thousand conversations with people who reject the idea of experiencing any sort of epic life because of their epic failures. They don’t think about what might be possible in their life because they can’t get past what they’ve done or get beyond their glaring inadequacies.

dark portrait

COACH, I’VE HAD AN ABORTION

I coached track and cross country at the high school level for many years. As a marathoner and avid runner, I enjoyed inspiring a younger generation to fall in love with the simplicity and purity of running. If I hadn’t become a pastor, I probably would have become a teacher. Working with students was always a great joy. Besides, in my opinion, kids who turn out for track and cross country are some of the best of the best.

It was a miserable spring day. In the first hour of track practice we experienced rain, hail, and high winds. The kids hated days like this and so did their coaches. When the lightning started up, it was time to send everyone home. It’s one thing to run as fast as lightning, quite another to get hit by it.

One girl, Carol, went to the bleachers instead of the locker room.[2] I had noticed she seemed distracted at practice that day. As she sat down in the stands, she buried her face in her hands. As a coach, I learned early on that young women are a bit emotional at times. They go through all sorts of physical and emotional changes. They fall in love, have their hearts broken, and then fall in love again, so it’s sometimes difficult to keep them focused on their performance at practice.

I figured Carol was wrestling with something minor in the grand scheme of things, but I thought I’d better check on her just in case. As I approached her, I discovered she was sobbing. In fact, I’ve rarely seen anyone cry so hard. Frankly, I wasn’t sure if I should leave her alone or ask if there was anything I could do, but I knew I had to say something.

“Carol, are you okay?” (First stupid question.)

Now she’s rocking and wailing uncontrollably.

“Hey, are you upset? (Second stupid question.)

I wanted to put my arm around her to comfort her, but as a male coach and alone in the grandstands, I just sat down next to her and waited for her to come up for air. After a few minutes, with her face still buried in her trembling hands, she said, “Coach, I don’t know what to do. I’ve had an abortion.” Then she let out a cry so loud anyone within a hundred yards would have heard it.

My heart sank. I’d heard this confession from other women before, but never from a fifteen year old. For heaven’s sake, one of my daughters was her age. At this point, I’m choking back my own tears. But what she said next will forever haunt me, “Coach, my life is over. I’ve *&#% things up so bad I know God hates me . . . nothing will ever be the same.”

Being a man, a coach, and a pastor, my natural inclination is to want to fix things. If it’s broken, I can repair it. If an answer’s needed, I can find one. If you’re in need of some wise counsel, the doctor is in. But what do you say to a young woman who’s suicidal over her decision to end a life? Her parents didn’t know. Her friends had no idea. She didn’t have a pastor, just a coach whom she trusted because she knew I cared about her.

I took a deep breath, put my hand on her shoulder and gently whispered, “We’ve all made horrible mistakes in our lives, and things do change, but God never hates us, Carol. He’s not mad at you, he’s weeping with you. When your heart is broken, his heart is broken too.”

We spent the next thirty minutes talking. I listened as she poured her heart out. I learned a lot about Carol in that short time. The one thing I know she heard from me was how God can forgive us of anything. I assured her over and over again, “God’s not mad at you, he’s mad about you, and he still has a good plan for your life. Restoration is his specialty.”

Like this young woman, many of us feel we’ve gone too far and failed too miserably to ever get back on track. If God did have a great plan for our lives, we believe it’s too late now. But avoiding epic failure is not a prerequisite to experiencing an epic life.

Moses was a murderer. David was an adulterer. Rahab was a prostitute. Peter was a betrayer. Saul (aka: Paul) persecuted and imprisoned Christians. Yet each of them lived amazingly epic lives when they followed God. We’re all in trouble if the path to adventure in Christ requires perfection. We must learn to get past what we’ve done and get beyond our glaring inadequacies. God is bigger than our foolishness and able to redeem, restore, and renew any life fully surrendered to him.

regret bike

 

[1] A paraphrase of the biblical book of Jeremiah, chapter one.

[2] Not her real name.

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2 Responses to No Excuses. No Regrets. You Can Live Free!

  1. Pastor Kurt,
    Thank you for your message.
    It is just one more confirmation for the direction God has been leading me for numerous years and why I believe He brought us here and why I have such a heart to be a part of Life Services. I attended the I Thrive Training last Saturday and am planning to start volunteering at one of their clinics. I am also starting online classes in Christian Ministry so that I will be more equipped to share the gospel with the women God puts in my path.
    You and the other Pastors inspire me every day.

Now What? (A letter from Peter)

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Resurrection peter1

 

Dear friend,

Astonishment courses through me as this dawn brings a new wave of hope. I am still Simon, called Peter, but I will never be the same.

You see, I watched Jesus die just two short days ago. From a safe distance I saw His agony and excruciating suffering. I’ve never felt so guilty. So broken. So lost. How could I have abandoned Him in His darkest moment? My pathetic weakness disgusted me, and I loathed the image I saw in the mirror on Saturday morning. What kind of person turns his back on a friend in need?

But yesterday, I found His empty tomb. The women in our group said an angel told them He was alive. Then, crazy as it seems, just as two brothers were telling us how they met Him on the road to Emmaus, Jesus appeared out of nowhere to all of us. “Peace be with you,” He said.

Peace? Seriously? I thought it was His ghost, but it was Him, and He truly is alive! Frankly, the shock of the resurrection still reverberates through my soul. This post-crucifixion encounter with the Teacher has changed everything.

Everything.

Instead of anguish, there is joy.

Instead of fear, there is faith.

Instead of dread, there is hope.

In a matter of twenty-four hours, my ravaged dreams are reborn. The anvil of despair no longer crushes my heart. In fact, it never ceases to amaze me how Jesus continues to alter and renovate my life. Just about the time I’m ready to quit, He encourages me. When I’m ready to throw in the towel, He surprises me. When I want to give up, I realize (again) that He never gives up on me.

Never.

Right now, through humble tears of joy, I pray: “Jesus, forgive me for my faithlessness. Forgive me for not listening and understanding. Forgive me for my betrayal. Oh God, help me to become the man You have destined me to become.”

As the wind wrestles through the leaves of the sycamore tree above me, I hear the Spirit’s gentle whisper, “You have come far. You will go far, for you have now died with Christ and you will forever live by the same power that raised Him from the dead. This is just the beginning.”

Amazing. Unbelievable. What love is this?

Because of Him,

Peter

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10 Responses to Now What? (A letter from Peter)

Between the Cross and Easter

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Jesus crucified 2

The disciples of Jesus had a horrible day the Saturday after the crucifixion. We see it as the period between the cross and Easter, but they didn’t see it that way or understand what we know in hindsight.

The Jewish Sabbath was typically a day of rest, but this Sabbath was a time of gut-wrenching heartache. The disciples’ teacher, Rabbi, Lord, and closest friend was lying dead in a cold tomb. Their dream of a Messianic-led rebirth of Israel was crushed. All hope of a Jewish revival was now completely shattered and abandoned.

The disciples feared for their own lives as they cowered in an upper room somewhere in the city of Jerusalem. Overnight they had become religious outcasts among the very people who once sang the praises of Jesus and his motley crew.

These men and women who loved Jesus experienced a dreadfully dark and demoralizing day. In their minds, he was gone forever.

The Friday of His crucifixion, they ran, they denied, they watched from a distance in horror, and they wept in agony. The next day, they lived in shock, in dread, and in dark corners of deafening silence.

Remember, they did not understand the promise of Easter or the hope of the resurrection.

Not yet.

Not on that Saturday.

It was the second worst day of their lives, and from their limited perspective, they would never have a good day again.

I wonder how many of you are in a similar place?

Something, or maybe even someone, has died. You’ve lost a dream, a relationship, a job or a friend, and you’re exhausted. In fact, you’re an emotional and physical wreck. Numbness covers your heart, mind, and soul like a dense winter fog. You can’t even think about the future. The misery of yesterday and the emptiness of today have stolen from you any joy and hope for a better tomorrow.

If that’s you, please listen to these words: God knows where you’ve been, where you’re at, and where he will take you. He understands the crushing anguish of the cross, but he also knows (far better than you do), Sunday is coming, and it’s a brand new day. A sunrise of hope for your future is on the horizon.

So hold on.

Stay true.

Don’t despair.

Sunday is just around the corner.

empty tomb

“I am the resurrection and the life.

The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;

and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”

John 11:25-26 (NIV)

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4 Responses to Between the Cross and Easter

  1. How refreshing to read your blog. I thanked my Lord this morning and always do for giving his life for me a sinner. I can rest knowing that I have a place in his Kingdom when I am called home. Just thinking of him on the cross broke my heart and made me cry. I am so thankful that we have a Father who cares, and loves so much that he gave his son for us. Praise God.

  2. Thank you for your posts Pastor Kurt I so value them and also the sermons that I can listen to online they have helped me through some sleepless nights and are so appreciated. We are fortunate to see hinesight. The darkness before the light. My greatest character changes and life changes have come through hanging in on that seemingly stale Saturday. I’m not a lover this day but have come to cherish it because the next day is Sunday!! Light peace energy and renewal. God is forever good ! And Jesus is continually revered for he was the only worthy to take the cup and he willingly chose. My heart is humbled and my life eternally His.

Does God Like to Mess with Us?

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coffee-cup-and-computer

I woke up early this morning and powered up my computer. Before I pray, I like to see if there’s anything critical in my mailbox while I’m nursing my java and waiting for the caffeine to kick in.

The first thing I noticed was a PR report from my publisher. I was encouraged to see how much they did in the first four months after the release of Epic Grace. However, this made me curious about how my book is currently doing in the marketplace. I have my Amazon Authors link saved in my bookmarks, so I popped over to take a look.

Hmmm . . . not so good . . . not a lot of sales this past week, and I’ve reached my lowest ranking so far. Guess I should go back to reading my email before I get discouraged.

Just then, I received a blog notice from Mark Batterson (the guy who wrote the forward for my book). I love the way he writes, I love his heart, and I always look forward to his postings. The blog title was intriguing, “One Million Praises.”

In the blog, Mark wrote, “Before The Circle Maker released, I had a holy hunch that it had a unique anointing on it. Like every book before it, we prayed that it would get into the right hands at the right time. A few weeks ago, I found out that God has answered that prayer more than a million times. And that means He deserves a million praises!”

Batterson is one of the humblest men I’ve ever met. In no way was he bragging about selling a million books. All his praise was directed toward God and in awe of Him. He wasn’t promoting himself; he was promoting Jesus.

But imagine how I felt.

Hmmm . . . seriously, God? He sells a million books and I’m barely in the top million on Amazon! What’s up with that?

Now, before you go all spiritual on me, I know all of the nice religious things Christians tend to say right here . . .

“You shouldn’t compare yourself to others.”

“It’s God who gives the increase; blessing is in the hand of the Lord!”

“You ought to rejoice over a brother’s success and not worry about yours.”

“Perhaps there’s sin or pride in your heart?”

For the record, I agree with all of the above (including the part about sin in my heart). But before you start throwing stones my way, here’s a little insight that might help you have some grace for me. Writing a book is a lot like having a child. It is conceived in passion, delivered through pain, born with great hope, nurtured through care, and always loved regardless of performance. The book is a part of you regardless of whether you sell one copy or a million copies.

When you pour your heart and soul into a book and believe in its message, your prayer is like Batterson’s, “God, please get this book into the right hands at the right time.”

Prayer

The godly part of me is fine and wise; it’s the human part of me that’s a problem.

My prayers (and yours too I suspect) frequently have strings attached. We know the right spiritual things to say to God, but we’re pretty convinced we know precisely how, when, and where God should answer our most pious of prayers.

We have expectations. God, I really need a spouse . . . a bigger home . . . a better car . . . a job!

We have a plan. God, getting it today would be perfect!

We have our definition of answered prayer. God, if you don’t do something soon (now) we’re going to have a problem!

And we can get pretty grumpy when things don’t go the way we think they should go. In fact, maybe you’ve wondered, God are you messing with me? I know what I need! Why don’t you seem to be listening?

In a span of time that seemed like hours but lasted only minutes, I realized (again) how silly I am at times. Staring at my computer screen, it hit me: I am not God, and I cannot control Him, what He does, or when He does it. (And that’s a good thing.)

Frankly, God is messing with me.

He’s messing with the mess that is in me and making my mind and heart more like Jesus. (Tweet this.) Is it always fun? No. Is it typically easy? Nope. Will it be worth it in the end? Absolutely.

One of my most frequent prayers is, “God, have your way in my life. Make me into a man, son, brother, husband, father, and pastor who honors you in everything.” I guess I shouldn’t be frustrated with the process he’s taking me through to help me become that man.

What about you?

Is God messing with your mess to make you more like Jesus?

God messes

“What’s the difference between you and God?

God never thinks he’s you.”

Anne Lamont

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14 Responses to Does God Like to Mess with Us?

  1. Kurt, thanks for sharing a bit of your journey with writing.

    When you wrote: “It is conceived in passion, delivered through pain, born with great hope, nurtured through care, and always loved regardless of performance. The book is a part of you regardless of whether you sell one copy or a million copies.” Tears came to my eyes. You tapped into something there 🙂

  2. You post always make me want to give you a call just to chat about “the journey”. You are always so open and real. Love and blessings to you Kurt.

  3. Always. 🙂 He is good at doing it in the same ways I do it with my adopted kids: keep me just outside my comfort zone so I stay alert and attentive and watch His love. It’s great messing around. Not that I always love it! Like you, I have a book out recently (my first) and I just told a friend yesterday that I’m on an indefinite fast from looking at the Amazon stats… since that was just me messing with me. lol

  4. Kurt, I love your line that says, “He’s messing with the mess that is in me and making my mind and heart more like Jesus.” That is SO true for me too. I’ve watched both my books soar to under 25,000 on Amazon and drop to under 2 million…and everywhere in between. Like Laurie, I’ve long since just ignored the numbers – chalking my desire to see them up to my personal pride.

    What I finally decided is that if God uses either of my books to positively impact even one person (and in the case of The Soul Repair Manual, if it brings even one person to know God personally and accept Christ), then all my hours writing were spent gladly.

    And just so you know, YOUR book DID impact me positively! Thank you for sharing of yourself with the rest of us – no matter how many or how few. Your time was worth MY while.

    (Laurie, I suspect your time will be worth my while too. I should get your book just in time to take it with me on vacation!)

    God’s Blessings to you both!

    • Grateful for your encouragement, Randy. Goes does measure things differently . . . one changed life at a time is all that really matters. Blessings!

      • Not to mention, we’ll never know the “ripple effect” in this lifetime. If you or I did all that work writing and impacted just one life…what God could do as a multiplier effect from THAT life could be truly astounding.

        By the way, I’m just about finished reading a book called “Your First 1,000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book” by Tim Grahl. If you have a Kindle (or similar), you can get it on Amazon for $3.99. The book isn’t addressed to Christians, but the suggestions for marketing are worth much more than the price if you are interested in reading on that topic.

        • I love the picture of a “ripple effect” in this lifetime. Well said! Thanks for the tip on the Grahl book.

  5. Pastor Kurt; I love tantalizing questions such as the one you’ve posted. Of course God loves to mess with me. Just relapace the word discipline with the word mess in Hebrews 12:6. No matter if Father God is disciplining, messing, teaching or is flat out showing His humor in any situation throughout my journey on this Earth; His love never fails.
    In case anyone doesn’t think God has a sense of humor, I suggest viewing Planet Earth the Ocean and observe the many different species God created in the depths of the ocean

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