WHAT’S IN YOUR HANDS?

Moses, sweltering in the heat of the Sinai desert, is engaged in a pity party. “I can’t do what you want, Lord, because of this excuse and that excuse. People won’t accept me. I can’t talk good. Let somebody else do it.”

But arguing with God is never a good idea. You don’t win. Even if you say “No” (and God may let you), you lose. When you say “no” or “I can’t,” you miss out on the great adventure God has for you when you’re in the center of His will for your life. But what is that will?

In the barren wastes of the Sinai, God asks Moses a simple question: “What’s in your hand?” Moses is a shepherd. That’s all he’s done for 40 years, and he’s ready to retire at age 80. “What’s in your hand, Moses?”

Moses looks at his hand. “A staff,” he tells God — as if God didn’t know. Duh!

The Lord says, “Throw it on the ground.” Moses does so, and it becomes a snake. God tells him to pick it up by the tail and it turns back into a staff. Hmmm. Over the next 40 years of Moses’ life, God uses that simple wooden stick to deliver the Israelites from Pharaoh, to open the Red Sea, to win a battle with the Amalekites, to bring water from a rock.

Who would have thought?

As Moses learns to use in faith what God has put in his hand, his life is changed — as well as the course of world history.

My question to you is: What has God put in your hand? Do you wonder how God might use you? See what He has given you. God equips people in various ways. I like to have people over to my home, you might say. Another might respond, I’m good with my hands. I can help a group get things done. I like to cook. I have the gift of gab. I like to keep things tidy. And so on.

Offer to God in faith what He has given you, no matter how simple, and God will use it — sometimes supernaturally — to do His work. You’ll have a new sense of meaning, since you’ll begin to realize how God is using simple things in new and wonderful ways.

When Jesus sees a hungry crowd he says to his disciples: “You feed them.” They are stunned by the magnitude of the need. So Jesus brings it down to their level. “Okay, Andrew, do a little inventory. Find out what food we have on hand.” Andrew checks around. “There’s a boy here with five loaves and two fishes. So what?” Jesus ignores his unbelief. He takes the bread and the fish, lifts them to God in thanksgiving, and then begins to distribute them to the people until all 5,000 plus women and children have been fed.

That’s how God’s work gets done. By weak people doing an inventory, then offering to Jesus what they find.

God has a world to save. You’re just one person. What difference can you make? I encourage you to do this simple inventory — count up your blessings, see what God has given you. That way, when God asks you, “What’s that in your hand?” you won’t answer: “Duh.” You’ll be able to tell Him — and then you can let Him use the gift / skill / resource / interest / relationship / opportunity to His glory.

Okay. Once more. What’s in your hand?

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How to Deal With the Death of People You Love

That’s how you feel when someone you love dies—you can’t bear it. So, don’t be impatient in your mourning and please don’t be the type of person that says “Don’t Cry” or “You’ll get over it.” This process of mourning must happen. The Bible says, “There is a time to mourn.” If you don’t mourn properly, you will not heal properly.

I did not fully understand this principle until it happened to me.

Our son Christopher was taken from us suddenly in an automobile accident at the age of 33. Though it has been 10 years, we still feel the pain and loss of it. Deeply.

I grew up in Southern California, so I’ve spent a lot of time in the ocean surfing and grief is like wiping out on a wave. When you get caught in a set of oncoming waves and go over the falls, you lose perspective. The thing you must avoid is panic. You have to roll with it and remember that it won’t last. But sometimes, when you’re in the whitewater, you lose perspective. You literally do not know which way is up, or how to get to the surface.

This is where your leash comes in.

Your leash is attached to your board, which always goes to the surface due to its buoyancy. So, you grab your leash and follow it to the surface. The Bible is like that leash; it gets us “above the surface,” where we can get a heavenly perspective.

Sometimes, I get my head “above water” and everything is clear. Everything almost makes sense for a few moments. I think, “The Lord is leading me in His perfect plan. I have a son on earth and another son in heaven. I will see him again.” But then the waves of pain and grief and sadness come back and I go under again. I surface and sink again many times in one day—again, again, and again. That is the nature of mourning, but within this, we still have hope.

The believers in Thessalonica were wondering if they would ever see their loved ones again who had died as Christians. Paul wrote these comforting words:

“And now, brothers and sisters, I want you to know what will happen to the Christians who have died so you will not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with Him the believers who have died . . . Then we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–17).

So, yes, we mourn when the lives of those we love are taken from us. We mourn deeply, but we have the hope of seeing our loved ones again someday. They have preceded us to heaven, and it will be a wonderful heavenly reunion.

At a time like this we will retreat to our predictable corners, and we will debate our nation’s gun laws, mental health policies and a number of other issues that possibly contributed to this most recent tragedy—but the ultimate issue here is on one of the heart.

Only God can change the human heart and replace rage with love.

That is why I am coming to the great state of Texas on June 10th at AT&T stadium for an event called Harvest America. There, I will tell people how to have their heart changed by God as we join together in prayer for all those affected by the shooting at Santa Fe High School.

There are a lot of questions at a time like this and I know it sounds like a cliché, but Christ really is the answer. I hope you’ll consider joining me in Arlington and find out why I believe that.

Why Do Youth Ministries Struggle Financially?

If you were to ask me what troubles me the most of all the news I hear each day, it would not be the threat of nuclear war. It would not be the numbers of children starving in third world countries or the huge political divisions in this nation that I love, as saddening as all those things are. For me, a person who spent his lifetime both working in various youth ministries, while also at the same time, trying to raise support to keep those God called outreaches going, the saddest thing I can hear of is hearing another youth program somewhere had to be shut down for lack of support.

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In a time when the needs of America’s youth are so numerous and pressures to help teens are so gigantic, why is it that viable youth ministries struggle so to keep their doors open?

Numerous youth ministries have had to shut down. I could start with a multi million-dollar internationally known teen ministry birthed in the fires of revival. I could then end the story after story, all the way down to a local neighborhood skate park someone built with their bare hands, by raising money through bottle drives and spaghetti dinners. Although their stories vary there end is the same. Because support somehow dried up they had to close their doors.

I’m the last one to judge these works and it seems like one of the first one to hear others armchair quarterback evaluations, full of hindsight on how, “Brother so and so” should have done such and such differently. The truth, my friends is that if you are ever called to a Para-church outreach to teens of any kind, you sign yourself up for some end time, front line battles from the enemy like you have never seen before! Once the Lord spoke to my heart; “What I love the most Satan hates the most!” From the moment you open the doors, let’s say, to your new “Youth Center”, the enemy will be scheming to close you down.

In 1987 God called me to a lifetime of youth ministry. Over the years, I have been the Youth Leader/Pastor in several different churches. Simultaneously to running those youth ministries, I was called to start a teen radio show, which began in my living room on a cassette recorder. The show was eventually syndicated, covering most of the populated northeast. In addition, I worked in a special education program in New York State for over thirteen years. In all this I had one gnawing question. Why was it so hard to raise money for youth ministry?

In the middle of my question crisis I was asked to be the guest speaker at Syracuse Teen Challenge in Downtown Syracuse NY. They housed on average of 15 men of various ages and their working staff. The director, we will just call Brother Dave, pulled into the parking lot soon after I arrived in his station wagon. The back window was down and had logs sticking out of it. As Dave came across the parking lot to greet me, two laughing young men tumbled out of the station wagon behind him. I said, “Brother Dave, what is this? What are you guys doing”? He said; “Oh hi, Brother Nolan, this is just some more firewood for our big wood stove!” I soon found out that there were not enough donations coming in to afford to heat the building so they had installed a big wood stove. He drove up the mountain to public land almost every day, carting firewood back with his own station wagon. A team of men traveled out from that Teen Challenge every weekend, ministering and giving testimonies in churches.

As I traveled around for various ministry responsibilities and tuned into into whatever Christian Radio station was for that area, I would not have to listen very long to hear another nationally known ministry promoting their “Christian Cruises”, or “Trips to Israel”. I would catch fundraising efforts using the latest and greatest marketing skills with “donation matching” promotions and giveaways of big screen TVs and getaway week end packages if only you’re the “5th Caller!” Or in a region that even the local churches are struggling to pay their bills. “If we can just get 8 more callers by the 7 o’clock deadline we will have reached our 1.5 million dollar goal!” It all seems sadly ironic.

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