Don’t Worry, Be Happy

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Here’s a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy
Don’t worry, be happy now

~Bobby McFerrin

Do you remember this catchy tune from the late 80s? I recall hearing it not long after its debut while traveling with my father, stepmother, and sisters in Naples, Florida when I was 16 years old. Life had gotten really complicated for me during that time. My parents had divorced, both remarried, and were preparing to move from the country in Northeast, Ohio to the city in Southwest, Ohio. I was a teenager struggling with all sorts of things, and I remember thinking to myself, “If only it was that easy, Bobby McFerrin!”

The new sermon series at PAG entitled, “The Habits of Happiness”, reminded me that happiness is a choice we have to make. That choice does not need to be dependent on our circumstances, because, let’s face it, circumstances often don’t go the way we expect! Life can leave us prone to wander… and to worry!

It seems that many Christians tend to separate happiness and joy, and that has always confused me. In Christian circles there is much talk about the difference between happiness and joy, but, personally, I think they go together! Happiness is a synonym for joy, and joy is defined as, “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” Joy is often considered a contentment or assurance, based on faith that God is in control, and we can cling to His promises. Happiness, in contrast, can be considered a superficial emotion dependent on circumstances, but this, to me, seems like a false dichotomy.

“Modern distinctions between happiness and joy are completely counterintuitive. For too long we’ve distanced the gospel from what God created us to desire—and what he desires for us—happiness.” ~Randy Alcorn

There are different types of joy and happiness. There is worldly joy and happiness, which is temporary. Jesus tells His disciples that they cannot seek happiness the way the world does. The desire to be happy cannot be your excuse to sin; rather obedience to Him brings happiness. True joy is not found in selfish ambition, excuses, or self-justification. We can chase after earthly things (relationships, careers, education, health, material things… etc.) thinking they will bring happiness, but, like Solomon, we will realize that these pursuits are “meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14).

In contrast, there is joy and happiness that comes from God and our relationship with Him. I believe God is happy, and He desires for us to be happy! (Certainly there are things that make Him unhappy, but for now I’d like to focus on Him being happy!) Scripture tells us, that He is thinking of us constantly! You are ALWAYS on His mind! (Psalm 139:17-18) Not only is He thinking about YOU, but He delights in YOU and is rejoicing over YOU with singing! (Zephaniah 3:17)  He longs to have a relationship with YOU! The only thing that will truly satisfy our desire for joy and happiness in this life is an abiding relationship with our Heavenly Father through Christ Jesus.

“But to think that Almighty God, who spoke the universe into existence, continually watches over me, continually thinks about me, and continually sings over me… because He loves and delights in me? It is mind-boggling. But it’s true, and His desire is that you would know that truth with complete certainty in every corner of your heart and soul. “~ Dave Carroll

Paul knew that truth with complete certainty, and that’s why, in his letter to the Philippians, he is practicing and encouraging his audience to be joy-filled. One small detail you might find fascinating is that he’s writing to his friends from PRISON!

We’ve all been there! Maybe not literal prison, but circumstances of life that sure have felt anything but happy and far more like confinement. Can you relate? Are you feeling imprisoned by financial stress? Have you been restricted and restrained by issues that are affecting your physical body? Do you feel enslaved by sins that so easily entangle… or sentenced to life by some relational bondage, past or present? It’s in these situations that Paul is reminding us, as believers in Christ Jesus, that we can choose happiness and joy. Paul’s joy was Christ’s joy. We can be happy in God despite our circumstances, and Paul encourages his readers to start by choosing happiness in their relationships. Paul’s advice may sound easy, but it can be quite difficult to do. And, it’s impossible in our own strength. Thankfully Paul reminds us a few chapters later that, “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

Paul starts his letter to the church in Philippi from a heart of GRATITUDE, even as he is in chains for the Gospel. (Philippians 1:3, 5) Paul was grateful for the people in his life. When I have been in those difficult seasons, I, like Paul, have learned to thank God for the people he has placed in my life to walk the journey with me! I often reminisce about my journey thus far and recall several people that God strategically placed in my life, and by doing so, changed my life! I have communicated often to them my gratitude for allowing God to use them in that way. Their obedience to speak truth into my life forever changed me! Think about someone in your own life who has been Jesus to you. Have you thanked them? Let me encourage you to do so… it is so good to remember God’s grace in our lives, and it is good to remind others of how they have been used by God to impact our lives eternally! Pick up the phone and make a call, or pick up a pen and write a note. Or simply journal to God from a heart of gratitude, thanking Him for the provision of those relationships in your life!

Paul encourages us to PRAY with joy for the people in our lives. (Philippians 1:4) Isn’t it true that we often want to change so much about others, but we don’t want to change ourselves? We’re pretty good at pointing out the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye while ignoring the huge tree sticking out of our own eye! (Matthew 7:3-5) Often when I am praying for someone, the Holy Spirit will whisper in my ear… “I’m praying that for you, Jenny.” Oh, Wow… Yes, Lord, examine our hearts when we pray! Prayer changes me!

I so appreciated the “Prayer Agenda” presented by Paul in Philippians 1:9-11. I am adopting this to pray for myself and others!

  • Pray I/they will grow in love.
  • Pray I/they will make wise choices.
  • Pray I/they will live with integrity.
  • Pray I/they will become like Jesus.

Let’s not stop there, let’s allow our prayers to change our thinking and ask the Holy Spirit to empower us to EXPECT THE BEST from the people in our lives. (Philippians 1:6-7) Let’s speak to the treasure in others, and release people from the captivity of their flesh and the lies of the enemy! Help people see their worth… their identity as sons and daughters of the King! Let’s encourage each other to trust God’s process “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” (Philippians 1:6)

With our physical eyes, we see who a person is. With our spiritual eyes, we see who that person can become! Oh Lord, help us to close our physical eyes in prayer and know that you will open our spiritual eyes to perceive what is far more real than the reality we can perceive with our senses!

“Dig for gold, not the dirt…Nobody who has a gold mine says, ‘Look at all the dirt I found!’ What I pull out of my pocket is all the gold nuggets I’ve found! Always protect people’s dignity.” ~Robby Dawkins

Lastly, let me encourage you to LOVE PEOPLE in your life like Jesus does! How does Jesus love? Completely. Unconditionally. Sacrificially. Jesus is the perfect role model for loving others well. He gave His life so that we could have a love relationship with Him, and He did so while we were still sinners. He calls us to do the same. Will you join me in asking God to cultivate this kind of love in our hearts so that we can be conduits of His love to a broken world?

Jenny Gallion,
Writer, Blogger

Partnering with the One

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Back in the late 1990s, I needed to earn some extra income on a part-time basis, but I wanted my hours to be flexible.  I desired to be able to set my own hours and work as little or as much as I wanted.  I became a Licensed Realtor®.  I didn’t quite know how to go about it, but thought that this would be a good way to earn money and meet new people.

The process to be licensed as a realtor is actually pretty easy.  You find a broker who will sponsor you and then you take the necessary classes to be able to pass the state exam.  Fast forward to the end, I passed the state exam and became a realtor.  As I said, the process is easy.  Once you pass the exam, reality sets in and you’re now going to have to put the education to work.  I needed to list and sell houses or find houses for others to buy.

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Let me just say, there are A LOT of realtors.  The numbers were staggering and we were all after the same prospects and clients.  How does a realtor make themselves different from everyone else?  How was I going to set myself apart? I didn’t have a clue or a plan!  But, I did have ears and eyes so I listened and watched.  To make this story shorter, I found that a lot of the realtors engaged in small partnerships.  These partnerships allowed the realtors to expand their impact on the market and allowed the individual realtor to work using his or her particular strength.  Thus was created “The Georges of the North Coast”.  Yes, that was our team name.  We marketed our own names as well.  I was “King George” and “Buy George” was my good friend and partner.  When we worked together, great things happened in our business.

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Like my partnership with George, our relationship with Jesus Christ is empowered by our partnership with the Holy Spirit.  Upon our acceptance of Jesus as the Lord of our life, the Holy Spirit comes into us and makes us spiritually alive.  We become Born Again.  Reborn spiritually.  The power of the Holy Spirit is released as we respond to Him.

Our partnership as “The Georges of the Northcoast” was most effective when we responded together towards a singular goal.  Likewise, when we act with the Holy Spirit in faith, something really powerful happens. The Holy Spirit moves upon us and we act with Him.  My relationship with the “Other” George was sometimes pressure filled.  We both had to perform at our best. The Good News? Our relationship with the Holy Spirit is not so much about the pressure to perform.  Actually, it’s not about that at all.  Rather it is about partnership.  My partnership with the Holy Spirit can be defined as “my desire to listen and hear the Holy Spirit and His wisdom for my life as He guides me”. His desire is to enable me to live a Godly life.  It’s the ultimate partnership.  When we act in faith with the Holy Spirit something incredible and powerful happens every time.  But there was more that I desired from God.  I wanted to be used by Him to reach a world for Jesus.

When I was a realtor, I had to rely on my education and the knowledge of the State Real Estate laws.  I was on my own.  I made mistakes. Actually, I made a lot of mistakes.  Some of those mistakes cost me income and were painful to swallow.  In the real estate business it’s all about image.  You don’t want a reputation of making mistakes following you around.  In my life with Christ, the Holy Spirit empowers me to get through the tough times but also He gives me wisdom and understanding to make better choices.  He works with me and is always there. I’m never alone. I don’t want to live a life outside of the Holy Spirit.  I desire to live out of the overflow of His power.

I need His power to witness to a world that needs to know that Jesus was tortured in our place, that He hung on a cross for our sins, died, and rose from the dead.  Jesus defeated death and sin and is alive forevermore working through His Holy Spirit to enable me to tell the world this amazing hope!

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Friend, I had a very important real estate partnership and “The Georges of the Northcoast” were a successful team.  But that team partnership ended after many years.  We went our separate ways. Now? Now my life is enabled and empowered by the Holy Spirit to live a life in Christ and to proclaim to the world that Jesus Saves.

Below is a link to a powerful and high-impact message from Pastor Aaron Taylor entitled, The Power For Life – It’s About Partnership.  Click on the link and learn about the most powerful partnership you can have.  http://painesvilleag.com/power-for-life  It’s definitely a partnership that will impact and change your life forever!  Activate the power of the Holy Spirit in your life today.

God bless and have a powerful rest of the week!

George Leonhardt,
Blogger

Nobody Likes A Dead Cell Phone

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By now I am sure you have heard all about the Holy Spirit. Last week, my fellow sister in Christ, Jenny Gallion, shared about waiting on the Lord to receive the power of the Holy Spirit and how that empowers us to be Christ’s witnesses. But what exactly does that mean? What kind of power are we talking about here? What kind of witness? If we’ve been waiting so long to become spiritually alive when we receive the Spirit at Salvation, how do we know what to do with this new life?

First, let’s tackle the concept of “power”. When you read that word, what do you think of? I immediately think of higher authority, maybe my mind wonders to a scene of kings and queens having the ruling power over a whole kingdom. Power, in my own minute definition, is something that comes from a higher being… no, THE higher being. Power gives us the ability to do things that we cannot do with our human selves because we simply are not God. Power is what opens the door to being used by the Spirit.

Now, let’s look at the word “witness”. What do you think of when you read that word? If you’re anything like me you’ve watched too many investigator type shows like Law & Order or Dateline and think immediately of someone that watched something happen- in these cases it is typically bad. The “witness” knows the story, believes what they say is true, and is willing to confess it to others to “prove their point” or “share their perspective of the account”. In essence, this is how we are supposed to witness to the world for Jesus. We are witnesses of the Gospel – we know the “story” and we believe it to be true because of first-hand experiences of what we’ve “seen and heard”. The next step is to share it with the world who often put Jesus and Christianity on trial. They want “proof” from Christ’s witnesses that this good news is indeed GOOD NEWS. In Acts 1.8 when do we become witnesses? “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes to you and you will be my witnesses in all of Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”. We become witnesses when we receive the power of the Holy Spirit who enables us for this task.

Think of it this way, when there is a big storm outside with 60mph winds, lightening, thunder, hail, the works, you might come home from work and realize that you have no electricity. Sometimes we would then say: “the power is out”. In other words, you are lacking what you need to use items like the microwave, television, washer/dryer, and heaven forbid, your cell phone charger. If you have no power, you cannot do certain things. Simply put, if we do not have the power of the Holy Spirit, how can we do what Christ has called us to do? How can we be a witness to the nations and those that have not yet heard the Good News of Jesus? Just like your home in the middle of a big storm when the power is out and not operating at full capacity, we are not functioning at full capacity.

That, dear Church, is why it is so important to stay charged up with the power that our Heavenly Father has promised us. Staying connected to the power-line of Christ through the Holy Spirit is like the charger to our souls – it gives us life and power. It gives us the power to function and do what we’ve been called to do. When we receive the Holy Spirit, it is an everlasting battery of power that runs through us. The more we abide in the Spirit, the more we will operate in His gifts so we can minister to others. Think of it this way, when your cell phone is at 99% are you more likely to use it than when you get that little notification that it is at 20%? How can the Spirit use us to perform miracles and powerful acts when we are operating at only 20%?

To continue my infamous cell phone analogy… when you got your cell phone, the gift of communication, how excited were you to use it? Didn’t you want to test it out? Play games, call, text, download apps, take pictures, listen to music, the list goes on and on and on of the things you can do with a fully charged cell phone. When we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, we should be just as excited and ready to communicate with others the greatest news on the planet!

Church, have you received the gift of the Holy Spirit? If you have not, I encourage you to ask the Lord for this wonderful gift! If you have, what are you waiting for? Go and let the Holy Spirit within you be a witness to the world! Pastor Aaron, in his sermon series, “Power for Life,” shares some incredible truths that can happen through us when we allow the gift of the Holy Spirit to operate in our lives. You can check out his podcast here: http://painesvilleag.com/power-for-life  Never forget this amazing gift the Lord has made available to us. Why? Because we can’t live and function without it!

Jenny Bushnell,
Writer/Blogger/College Student

WE ARE ALL WITNESSES

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Ten years ago today, Nike announced the introduction of their new “Witness” integrated marketing campaign celebrating Lebron James as he made his first NBA Finals appearance of his career. The NBA.com website stated, “The Witness campaign pays tribute to James and acknowledges the legions of fans worldwide who are ‘witnessing’ his greatness, power, athleticism and beautiful style of play.” Now 10 years later, many are still enamored with this man who’s making basketball history.

This past Sunday, the message “Power for Life”, highlighted our call to be “witnesses” of Someone far greater than Lebron James. The very last words Jesus spoke to His disciples before He ascended to Heaven were “… But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) This is just as true for us today as it was for the disciples in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost! Now over 2,000 years later, we, as Christ followers are still called to be His witnesses! Jesus promised to empower us, not with a lesser spirit, but with HIMSELF!

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As believers, it is our hearts’ desire to be a witness to the greatness and power of our Savior, yet how often do we walk through our days powerless because we have not cultivated an ongoing experience of His presence within. I am so often distracted by the circumstances of life… the things I see in the natural. I have become discouraged, anxious, overwhelmed, even paralyzed by fear by what I see and what I don’t know. Can you relate? Like the disciples, we want to know the specifics about what our futures hold, imagining that “knowing” would make things easier, but in all reality, it wouldn’t. “It’s not for you to know…” Jesus says.

“Confidence comes not from knowing the specifics, but rather the Source.” (Pastor Aaron Taylor)

Jesus is the Source of our lives! It is vital that we remain connected to Him, the True Vine, receiving the life-giving sap of the Spirit, waiting on Him to speak to us moment by moment… to bring clarity and direction, to overflow us with hope, and to refresh us and renew our strength. He calls us to depend on Him alone.

But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] will gain new strength and renew their power; They will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]; They will run and not become weary, They will walk and not grow tired. (Isaiah 40:31 AMP)

Our lives are so full… okay, my life is so full. I have sensed Jesus inviting me time and time again to receive His invitation to “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…” (Matthew 11:28), but I so often ignore the invitation and continue doing life in this frantic pace, operating out of the flesh… empty and exhausted.

He calls us to “BE” with Him before He ever calls us to “DO” for Him. The doing is a natural overflow of our time spent waiting on Him and receiving His power. It’s about resting and waiting not striving and straining!

I sense a message from the Holy Spirit… “It’s time to stop ignoring My voice! My sheep listen to My voice. Stop disobeying what you know I am asking you to do! I am calling you to COME…REST… WAIT… and RECEIVE POWER! I have called you to be my witnesses, and you cannot do that in your own strength! You need Me to equip you! You need to stay connected to me, the Source of your life!”

So I have repented… I have asked Him to forgive me for resisting and rebelling against resting in Him and waiting on Him. He knows what I need most! He knew that I would eventually come to the end of myself and my vain efforts and find Him there waiting for me! Thank you, Jesus!

His presence is everything! We will NEVER be content just knowing about Jesus! We will NEVER be content just hearing about the power of the Holy Spirit or someone else’s experience. We must have a personal encounter with the Spirit, and unless we are OBEDIENT and INTENTIONAL about making the time to rest and wait for Him to minister to our souls, that will not happen. When we rest in Him, and let Him live in us by His Spirit, fruitfulness happens!

WAIT for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”…

I’m ready to receive power to be His witness! How about you?

Jenny Gallion
Blogger, Writer

“Mr. Ambassador, You Have A Phone Call”

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“Ladies and gentleman, the Ambassador of the United States.”  This is a greeting that you may hear if you have the opportunity to attend a State dinner at the home of the US Ambassador.  Now, I have never attended a State dinner, but I do remember touring different ambassador homes in Washington, DC when I was young.  I didn’t know at that time what an Ambassador was, but what I did realize is that the homes they lived in were HUGE.  I thought that whomever this person was, he must have been important.

Did you ever have to represent a group of people anywhere?  What I mean is, did you have to reflect the statutes or rules or position of a group? If you ever accepted a leadership position at your workplace or in your community, you were certainly representing a larger group of people. What does all of this mean?  Well, you may not have had a title of Ambassador, but that is what you essentially were. What is the meaning of Ambassador?  Generally speaking, an ambassador is a respected official acting as a representative of a nation.  Now, you didn’t represent the United States of America, but you represented a group of people.  You were chosen because of your leadership or knowledge and were given authority from the group to reflect the official position of the group.

Going back to when I was a kid, I knew that the Ambassador must have been an important guy, but I didn’t have any idea what he did.  I just liked his big house.  He even had a staff working for him.  WOW.  His job is so important that foreign government officials would call on him.  Maybe he has the “Secret Red Phone.”  As a kid, I watched way too much TV.

Anyways, did you know if you are a Christian, something similar has happened to you?  Yes. You are an Ambassador for Christ.  Your actions, character, and words should embody that of our King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  The work of an Ambassador in Christ means that everything we say and do represents the King.  We have been “approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel” according to 1 Thessalonians 2:4.  We are entrusted with the message of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18).  We as Christians carry with us the message of mercy and reconciliation to a lost and dying world.  Jesus lived this ministry on earth.  Jesus acted on behalf of His Heavenly Father demonstrating mercy and reconciliation to those He met.  Jesus was an Ambassador of Mercy.

You may be asking, “How can I represent Jesus Christ and my Heavenly Father as an Ambassador of Mercy?”  Well, here are a few things you can try.

  • Start looking and listening for other people’s needs. Like the needs of people in your neighborhood, your work, even your family.  My mom and dad were very good at this.
  • Don’t be offended by their sins. We all sin and fall short of the Glory of God. (Rom. 3:23)  Grace and Mercy are unconditional.  They are deserving of that same unconditional love that you have received.
  • Choose your words carefully. As Ambassadors in Christ we need to choose our words wisely when communicating God’s truth.
  • We must value saving people over keeping rules. I value rules but sometimes some of the “rules” are more tradition than Biblical. Jesus often times set aside typical decorum and rules if it meant reconciling someone to His Heavenly Father.

I will conclude with this quick story.  From about the time of my high school graduation (1973) to July 1999 I led a life that wasn’t good.  I was messed up and had lost everything; including my wife and home.  I worked because I had to.  A man I worked for demonstrated being an Ambassador in Christ to me on one particular Friday afternoon.  I had decided that day to take my life and I wanted this man to send me home from work.  I had it planned.  It was the one year anniversary of my divorce from my wife.  We were married 21 years.  We had two great kids, but my life was messed up and my marriage had fallen apart.  So I asked this man to send me home because I couldn’t keep my mind on my work.  That way I could go home and take my life.  Well, instead of granting me my wish, this man who was my boss asked me if he could pray for me.  I sat down, he took my hands and he prayed.  Two days later, on Sunday, I found myself at his church and I gave my life to Jesus Christ.  This man’s name was Mark.  His prayer was my Miracle of Mercy.

 

As Christians, we are called to be Ambassadors of Mercy.  We represent Jesus Christ in this world.  Just like Mark, we need to see the greater picture.  We need to set aside what may be the easy solution and really step into the Miracle.  I live today because Jesus died for me and rose from the dead.  My sins were forgiven.  Mark represented Jesus on earth and my life was forever changed as a result of that.  Whose life will you touch as an Ambassador for Christ?

Have a very blessed weekend!

George Leonhardt
Blogger, Writer

High School Dreams

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When I was in high school I always wanted to be involved in student activities.  I wanted to be a sports star.  I was a fan of baseball and football.  I watched plenty of it on TV, but the reality was I was not gifted in athletics.  It was a dream to play a varsity sport, but I just didn’t have the necessary physical skill.  That didn’t bother me so much because I knew that in advance.  But there were other student activities.  There was student council, student clubs, office aides, and library aides.  None of these really interested me.  I dreamt of being an athlete.  I wanted to be on the field with the crowds cheering.  I wanted that validation that I was somebody.  Our high school was very large.  There were 715 students in the senior class when I graduated.  Those other student activities didn’t excite me.  I thought that there was no way I could fit in with the people that already had positions and served in these activities.  They were “Brainiacs”.  They appeared far smarter than me.  Their skill and intelligence intimidated me.

Here is my point.  I was scared to be in a student activity that was not part of a team.  In a large school, the athletic teams were huge.  The football team included over 100 young men.  I figured if I could participate on that team, I could get lost in the crowd in case I made a mistake or did something wrong.  It was a team sport.  We all would share in the good and the bad.  Being a student admin would put me out front by myself.

Well, God has a way of using less qualified people to serve for His purpose.  Or better yet, God worked in my student life to show me that His plan was not what I thought.  I didn’t have a relationship with God while in high school.  I was pretty quiet.  Just did what I was told.  I had my circle of friends, but I wasn’t very recognizable.

Opportunities began to open up in a young man student club called Key Club.  I looked from the outside and thought that these guys again were too smart for their own “britches”.  I thought for sure I couldn’t fit in.  Until one of my friends, Paul, asked me if I would like to come to the next Key Club meeting.  I thought why not.  I attended and liked it.  I found out this group was very active in the school and the community.  I enjoyed helping others. I enjoyed working with outside organizations to reach the less fortunate in my community.  I was happy.  Well, soon I was finding myself in the Key Club leadership and after 1 year was elected Key Club President and served two years.

God called me into an activity even though I didn’t know it.  God created me and shaped me with a purpose.  God has things planned for us that we don’t always know but we can be assured it is for our good and His glory.

I had a lot of failures in my high school years.  I didn’t live a life at times that anyone would say was good.  “If you knew me, you wouldn’t like me” is something that I would say.  Though I found success in student activities that wasn’t the life I was leading.

The Bible tells us in Exodus that Moses also felt unqualified when God spoke to him from a burning bush.  God called Moses to deliver the Israelites from 400 years of slavery.  Moses had some failures.  He killed an Egyptian soldier who was mistreating one of the Hebrew slaves.  He took matter into his own hands.  But Moses was part of the royal family.  How could he do that?  Moses fled to the wilderness.  (Exodus Chapters 3 & 4)

Had Moses’ failure disqualified him from being used by God?  Absolutely not!  The parting of the Red Sea is pretty spectacular!  Failure is not a disqualification to be used by God.  I too thought my failures outweighed my abilities.  I was quiet and just did what I was told.  I couldn’t play varsity sports because of my physical inabilities.  My dream was shattered.  I thought I wasn’t smart enough for the student clubs.  These fears were real to me.  But thanks be to God, His plan was in fact to use me in life to impact others in a far greater way than I could’ve imagined.

God had His hand on me when I didn’t even know it.  Looking back to my high school years, I see a very quiet and defeated young man being used to touch other’s lives.  What?  That doesn’t make any sense.  In the world’s view, it doesn’t.  From a heavenly perspective it makes perfect sense.  It was always God’s eternal plan.  It was God’s incredible Mercy.

The Apostle Paul explains this very clearly.  Paul wrote, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:26-28 NIV)

 So what’s the secret to being used by God?  I had no idea what it was.  But I have learned some things along the way.

  • It’s all about God’s Mercy. Mercy is undeserved forgiveness and unearned kindness.
  • I don’t have to prove my worth. It’s God’s plan.  It will be fulfilled.  God says in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
  • I don’t have to sit and wallow in my mistakes. We all make mistakes.  Because of God’s Mercy, I know I can move on.
  • I must be real. I have to be myself.  I can dream but need to realize that maybe my dream is not God’s dream for my life. It simply may not match who God created me to be.
  • It’s NOT about me. “Me. Me. Me” is pride.  The Apostle Paul said that the message was not about him, but rather Jesus Christ.

(2 Corinthians 4:5)

  • Use my plan to help others. That is exactly what God did.
  • Stay focused on eternity. I must remain usable to God.

Friends, God continues to lead me in His eternal plan.  I have been used to lead ministries, to speak to large groups about Jesus, to touch a community both here and abroad, and to be a part of impacting lives for Jesus.  Who knew that it all began with the quiet kid in high school?  God can use anybody.  My mistakes and failures didn’t disqualify me, rather they were equipping me when I didn’t even know it.

If you want to hear a tremendous and impactful message by Pastor Aaron Taylor on The Miracle of Mercy – God Can Use Anybody, click on the podcast below.

http://painesvilleag.com/the-miracle-of-mercy

God didn’t want me to lead our high school football team to victory.  He had better plans.  Which is good because I would have had a hard time beating Tom Brady in the Super Bowl.  He’s pretty good. 😉

Have a great rest of the week!
George Leonhardt,
Writer, Blogger

The Storage Room of the Heart

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Do you have a storage room? Or maybe it’s a storage closet? If you are like me, you also have a storage desk drawer and sometimes a chair that is deemed the “storage chair” – unintentionally, of course. What do you keep in your storage room? Right now, I have my items for college, an old dresser, old toys, a keyboard, and even some cob webs. In my desk, I have a few decks of cards, coin wrappers, old birthday cards, and some art projects from elementary school. These places hold things I’m not quite sure what to do with. When I am cleaning and find something that does not have a dedicated place, it is thrown into the storage drawer/closet.

When I was packing for college this past school year, I decided to go threw this storage drawer. After I got started, I immediately regretted it. The only items it was storing was junk that I really did not need anymore, but had a hard time getting rid of. About halfway through, I realized that my “storage” drawer had actually become a place for me to hide the junk that I did not want to look at constantly. It bothered me that, for all this time, I was using this space for clutter when I could’ve been using it for something else. After I cleaned out the drawer, I felt so relieved. It was difficult to throw away some of the keepsakes I had in there, but I realized they were holding me back from utilizing the space I had more efficiently and productively.

Our hearts can sometimes relate a lot to our storage rooms. When something happens, we store it in our hearts, either good or bad. Sometimes we store a lot of “junk” in our hearts that can be toxic to our relationships; both with others and God. This stuff does not come from just anywhere though. It does not just appear. It’s usually when we have been wronged or when we’ve given into sin. Things like bitterness and anger are examples of the toxic things that can be stored in our hearts after being wronged.

In more case’s than not, when someone wrongs us, our first reaction is to hold it against them. We end up holding the hurt in our hearts, the ultimate storage room. The longer we hold the hurt, the sooner it turns to hate. It then rapidly increases to anger and bitterness.

The heart is such a vital organ. Through it, the rest of our body receives the oxygen it needs. When it is cluttered with too much toxicity, the heart is contaminated and can often result in a heart attack or other medical problems. It’s prohibited from functioning like it was created and designed to function. It’s the same with our spiritual hearts. If we allow “junk”, such as anger, bitterness, and hate to be stored in our spiritual hearts, it will begin to create more problems.

Proverbs 4.23 tells us to, “guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life”. Church, we need to guard our hearts. One way of doing that is to not store up the negatives in our heart. You may say: “but it’s hard to not let myself get angry, or hurt, about something someone did to me”. That is why we are commanded to forgive,  just as Christ has forgiven us (Ephesians 4.32).

Allowing the bad things to be stored in our hearts gives the enemy a foothold to do more damage. When we forgive, as Christ has forgiven us, we are actually releasing the hurt to God and allowing Him to begin a healing within us.

As Pastor Aaron has been preaching about The Miracle of Mercy these past few weeks, we have to recognize that the definition of mercy includes “unearned forgiveness”. Pastor shares what forgiveness really is and how to apply it to our lives in the message preached this past Sunday.  http://painesvilleag.com/the-miracle-of-mercy  I encourage you, set aside some focused time where you can check it out and allow the Holy Spirit to work in the storage room of your heart. Remember… it begins with mercy and forgiveness.

Jenny Bushnell,
College Student, Blogger, Writer