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How Long Will You Fail?

I recently heard someone ask the question, “How long are you willing to try and fail before you quit?”

Yeah, I’ll give you a moment to ponder that one…

Some people quit before they even start because something seems too difficult. Others will try something for a little while, and see if they are good at it or can accomplish it quickly. Others will try until they cannot think of any other way to succeed on their own.

Then there are those who are determined. They are determined to keep trying even if they didn’t succeed the first time, or second time, or 29th time. They are determined to succeed if it takes more time, more effort, more money. They are determined to ask others to help them. They are determined not to give up.

I think about Abraham Lincoln who kept running for political offices even though he had lost in so many of his attempts to be elected. I think about Thomas Edison, who refused to give up when as many as 1,000 of his efforts at creating an incandescent light bulb failed, and when his first successful one was dropped by a young boy going to show others. I think about missionaries who have gone to places where they may only reach one convert in their decades of ministry on a foreign field. Those people were determined.

And I can’t get this question out of my mind.

I am typically not a quitter. I may be a steady plodder who understands that it may take me awhile to figure out how to do something… it may take me plenty of tries to get it right… I may have to find someone else who knows more about it than me to teach me how… I may have to save up slowly to have what I need to accomplish it… but I am usually willing to keep trying and failing if I believe deeply that what I’m doing is important and valuable. Yet I wonder if I sometimes give up too quickly or too soon?

Is there something in your life that you really want to accomplish? Do you want to run a marathon? Be a better dad? Invent something useful? Help widows? Stop human trafficking? Become an entrepreneur? Graduate? Write a book? Learn to paint?

What’s stopping you? To what extent are you willing to go to succeed? I’m not talking about doing wrong. The ends don’t justify the means. I’m simply asking if– like me– you might sometimes stop just a little too early. What if we were willing to try and fail even more so that we could learn and succeed even more?

So you didn’t get the job or get the promotion. So you didn’t pass the test. So you didn’t make the team or the band. So you didn’t inspire them or make them laugh. So you gained back some of the weight you lost. So you didn’t ________________________________.

Whatever it is that is blocking your path to succeeding at what God has put in your heart and mind to be and do, don’t quit yet. Be strong. Rest if you must, but don’t quit. Be courageous. Try something bold and different. Even if others think you are foolish for continuing to try, keep going for it. You’ll be the one laughing when you succeed at what they thought was impossible.

God is not a quitting God. His love never fails. He is always there to help us succeed when we look to Him for help. So, don’t give up today. Not just yet. You’ve got more in you. Try again. Fail again if you must, but just don’t stop believing or trying. In the end, you’ll be glad you were willing to try and fail as long as it took!

Arm Wrestling The Devil

There may not be a more guttural display of manly competitiveness than that of arm wrestling. Pit two men against each other in a test of sheer arm strength till veins bulge in their foreheads and necks, and people will gather around to watch. Pit me against either of our sons, Alex or Austin, and no one would pay the price of admission.

Why? Because it’s no contest. Their bodies have not yet developed muscles to the point whereby they would have enough strength to defeat me. Simply put, I would win every time.

I remember challenging my parents to arm wrestling when I was younger and winning many times, only to realize in later years that it is because they were letting me win. I was so disappointed to discover that I wasn’t as strong as I had thought.

You know, the enemy of our souls is a lot like a little kid arm wrestling their parent. That kid doesn’t stand a chance unless he is allowed to win by the parent. The kid would lose every time. And the truth is, Scripture tells us that “He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.” In other words, because God lives in me, when the devil challenges me, I can win every time. He’s just out-powered. It’s no contest. The only way the devil can win when he comes against me is if I let him win. But as long as I oppose him… as long as I put up any resistance at all… he simply cannot overcome it.

There is this myth which floats about mankind which says what is going on in the spiritual is an epic battle between good and evil… that God and the devil are equal opposites, and we just have to wait and see who will win. That is misguided thinking. The angel who rebelled against God and became who we know as the devil was a creation of God who was instantly defeated the moment he opposed God, and he has been living a defeated existence ever since. There is absolutely no comparison or competition.

And since the Creator of the Universe lives in those of us who have accepted Him, we have that power in us. This means the devil is no competition if we will simply offer resistance.

I don’t know how he has flexed his wicked muscles in front of you today, or how he has taunted you to sit down at the table and grasp hands, but when he says go, just hold tight… give him a wink… and then slam his wrist through the table… because he doesn’t stand a chance of winning if you oppose him with the One who is greater living in you.

So get out this week and arm wrestle the devil if you must. Just remember… you can’t lose as long as you offer resistance!

Believe In Tomorrow

Our friends who live in the north may have a difficult time believing this, but it is almost time for me to get out the tiller and turn over the ground in our garden patch in order to begin getting it ready for planting. I’ll have to till it up two or three times, weeding and leveling before we make rows and plant seeds and seedlings. But those seeds have to be in the ground by Good Friday around here, or there won’t be much to pick this summer:

I read this quote from Audrey Hepburn recently which caught my attention because I’ve got gardening in the back of my mind. She said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” That, my friends, is truth. We almost didn’t plant a garden last year because we weren’t sure if we would still be living here, but we went ahead and did all the work for the garden, whether for ourselves or someone else. I’m sure glad we did because we enjoyed a lot of veggies out of that garden all the way up into fall.

So, I’m planning to plant a garden in the back yard again this year. Do I know that we will be living here in the same place “tomorrow?” No, I do not. But someone will be living here. And someone will be glad we did the work to plant that garden.

You see, doing all the prep work and then planting a garden is an act of faith. It is believing there is going to be a tomorrow to go out and harvest what we’ve planted. It is an act of hope… trust… faith. It is believing that all the effort will have been worth it. It is believing there will be a pay-off or return for our investment.

The same is true in life. When we make the investment in time and effort and energy today, we say to ourselves and those around us, “I believe there is going to be a good tomorrow. I’m planning for it. I’m preparing for it. I’m looking forward to it.” That’s faith.

So, whatever you’re facing today, plant a garden… that is, believe in tomorrow. Don’t give up. Don’t avoid the prep work because it seems early… or looks daunting… or because you think you may not be the one to enjoy it. Getting ready says you believe there is a good future to look forward to. And there is! God has good things in store for those who love Him and follow Him. So, get your work gloves out, grab some tools, and let’s get that garden planted!

Yours Vs. Mine

I just got off the stationary exercise bike at our house. I typically ride six miles when I am using this bike for cardio exercise, and it usually takes me about 22-23 minutes to complete that six miles. Sometimes I pause it to jump off and do some circuit calisthenics, and so my routine may take a little longer. But by the time I’m done, I’ve worked up a good sweat, my heart has pumped at a good pace, and my muscles feel that they have been well-used.

Now, I know that there may be someone reading who is a fitness fanatic. You read those numbers, and you are severely underwhelmed. Perhaps you even did the math while you read and quickly estimated that my biking is almost a four-minute mile. Then you may have thought, “Allen, don’t you know that there are plenty of people who run four-minute miles? You’re not doing very good exercising if you are only biking a four-minute mile.”

But here’s the thing… I’m not competing against those people. I’m not in a race. I’m not working toward a personal record. Nothing wrong with those things. It’s just not what I’m setting out to accomplish. I’m simply trying to conquer another day of cardio to keep my body in good health. The goal is different. So, it’s not comparing apples-to-apples.

This is where we often get into trouble. We look down on ourselves because we don’t feel like what we are doing compares to what someone else is accomplishing. We feel like our four-minute mile on an exercise bike isn’t as good as someone else’s four-minute mile on foot in a marathon. But we need to focus on what we are trying to accomplish.

The writer of Hebrews says we are to run the race God has set before us. Not the race He has set before other people. The race He has set before us. When we do this, we honor Him and accomplish our assignment more effectively.

You don’t have to keep up with someone else. You don’t have to give as much as they give… or serve how they serve… or worship the same way they worship. You do have to be true & faithful to what God has set in front of you to do if you want to truly succeed in life. And when you focus on the race set before you, you’ll see yourself succeeding more and more.

So, if you’re not impressed with my speed on the exercise bike, that’s okay. I’m not trying to impress or out-do anyone else. I’m just trying to stay healthy so I can honor God with my life and be here for my family and those I serve. Every time I knock out another six miles in 22 minutes, I wipe the sweat from my brow and feel the success of victory over my own laziness.

For the record, I’m not trying to make my distance or time what you need to strive for either. You’ve got your own race set out before you. So get out there, and do what you’re meant to do. You’re going to be great!

Without Even Asking

Today is Austin’s 8th birthday… and when we celebrated earlier this week, he got presents. The funny thing is, not one of those were gifts he had asked for. We had asked him what he would like for his birthday, because he knows we are going to give him gifts. He came up with nothing. We suggested he make a list, but he is generally a content person, and he literally could not think of anything to ask for. Granted, we know we spoil our kids. Yet this was odd to us. A kid who didn’t know what to ask for.

Of course, we knew that we could not let him wake up that morning to no gifts. We searched. We shopped. We struggled. But we ended up finding several gifts we felt certain he would really enjoy, even though he had not asked for them.

Sure enough, his eyes lit up when he saw the packages. And I wonder if he was a little surprised since he had not asked us for anything specifically. It was so much fun watching him open gifts he had not asked for… his eyes lighting up, a smile spreading across his face, and even a squeal of joy when he opened them.

Austin got gifts from us that he loved receiving. Gifts he had not asked for, but gifts which we knew he would enjoy… because we know him. We know him better than anyone else knows him. We know what he likes and doesn’t like. We know what excites and energizes him. We also know what would not interest him in the least. So we looked for, purchased and gave him gifts with him in mind.

Here’s the thing… God is a far better Parent to each of us than PR31 and I will ever be to Austin and Alex. He knows each of us better than we even know ourselves. He knows what we need, what we want, and what we would love, even more than we do. When we don’t even know what to ask Him for, He knows what to give us. When we think we have everything we could want, He knows what would bring us even more joy. Scripture tells us that before we even ask, He knows our needs. And it also says that, when we don’t know what to ask Him for, His Spirit comes alongside us to help us because He knows what we want and need.

God wants to bless you today. He wants to help you today. He wants to give you what you need today. He pays attention to you all the time, and He listens to every word you say. So if you’re not sure how to pray today, just tell Him to give you what He thinks would be best. He may have something to give you that you didn’t even know to ask Him for!

Re-Birthday

Today, we have much to celebrate. We celebrate today because Alex and Austin share a birthday… or maybe I should say… a “re-birthday.” On this day, three years ago, PR31 had the privilege of leading both boys in prayer as they accepted Jesus Christ as the Forgiver of their sins and the Master of their lives.

In Scripture, we find that Jesus called it being “born again,” and the idea stuck with His followers. Being made right with God and adopted into His family is a lot like having a whole new birthday.

So this day is written on our “Remember” board in sharpie. This day pops up in our photo memories on the phone. This day is for celebrating.

You see, that day in 2016 marked the change of their eternal destiny. Now, they are children of God, not just children of Allen and Angela. Now, they have a future full of joy and hope spent with their loving Creator. Now, they do not have to worry if they are not perfect, because they have a Savior who is, and He is sharing His perfection with them… just because they asked.

If you’re not right with God today, don’t let another moment go by. Do what Alex and Austin did on this day three years ago…

1) Admit you blow it and do wrong things sometimes.

2) Accept that Jesus was punished and executed in your place for those crimes you commit against God when you do wrong.

3) Ask God to forgive you for past wrongs and help prevent you from future wrongs.

4) Invite Him to be in charge of your life, guiding you… leading you… directing you.

Do that today, and guess what? You’ll share a re-birthday with Alex and Austin! And that, my friend, is something to celebrate!


P. S. – If you make that choice today, would you let me know so that I can tell Alex and Austin their choice helped someone else? It would mean a lot to all of us!

Transactions

I love watching NFL games! Obviously, as a New Orleans Saints fan, I’m quite captivated as we come to the end of the season, and my team is in the playoffs. But I follow the game year-round, and I have been reflecting this week- as so many teams whose seasons have ended are letting coaches go and looking toward the next draft- about what each change a team makes really means.

I recall a statement by Adam Capland which I heard on an NFL radio show back in the preseason. He said, “Transactions always tell a story.” In other words, when teams trade, cut or hire, they express who and what they value. For example, just last week, a team in the playoffs hired a kick-off specialist because they didn’t feel like their regular place kicker could put the ball in the end zone on kick-offs. Simply hiring that other kicker meant they didn’t trust their own kicker to do his job. They didn’t value him or his abilities enough to believe in him.

Now, we can berate those team tycoons for the way they cut head coaches from the team coldly after several losses, or move on to the up and coming rookie because the crowd is tired of the veteran who is no longer in his prime. But the truth is that our transactions always tell a story as well. What we spend our money and time on speaks to what is important to us personally.

Each day, we have the opportunity to place value on people, to express how much they matter to us and to God. Simply saying yes to spending time with someone can speak volumes to them about how special and wonderful they are. Sometimes a small gift expresses immense love or appreciation. Jesus said that wherever our treasure is, there our heart will be also. Our transactions always tell a story.

It’s true. We give our time, attention and money to those whom we value most. Andy Stanley has said, “Saying ‘yes’ to one thing means saying ‘no’ to something else.” We only have so much of each to give, and so we prioritize. Who and what we love least will get cut or traded for who or what we love more or most.

Only people will last for eternity. People should always trump stuff. I know we can’t give everyone our undivided time and attention. Sometimes the money and the time truly aren’t available for everyone in your life. I’m not suggesting that you can give the best of yourself to all those to whom you want to give it. But maybe we could turn off the TV or put away the phones little more, and play a game with our kids. Maybe we could skip the meal at the restaurant and give to a friend in need. Maybe we could give up those few extra minutes of sleep to get up and spend some time with the Lord, reading His Word and talking with Him.

Transactions always tell a story. How has the story of your life read up to this point? Are you pleased with the story so far, or do you wish you could erase some of the story and re-write it? Well, we can’t re-write the past, but the good news is that the next chapter’s pages are blank. We have the opportunity today to begin writing the story in a way that tells the story our hearts longs to tell… Let’s tell a great story!

In The Game

Alex and Austin play an online, interactive computer game in which players can create games for others to play. Obviously, some of the game creators are professionals- or people with way too much time on their hands- and their games are highly popular in the daily rankings. The boys try lots of the games and occasionally even create one themselves, but they gravitate to those well-made, popular ones like everyone else.

The other day, Austin came running into the kitchen with great excitement, telling Angela, “The maker is in the game! The maker is in the game!” When Angela asked him what he was talking about, he explained that he had entered one of the games and discovered that the maker of that game was playing in it at the same time he was. For him, just knowing the maker of that game was “in there” playing along with him made playing at that moment so much more fun and exciting for him.

Now I know that life is not a game, and God is not simply a programmer who created the world and then left it to let happen what happens. The truth is, He never leaves “the game” of life we are living. He is always present. He told Joshua in Scripture that He would be with Joshua everywhere he went. And Jesus told His disciples that, even though they wouldn’t always see him “playing in the game,” He would be with them all the way to the end.

That means “the Maker” is in “the game” with you and me today! The Maker is in “the game!” We can communicate with the Creator. We can see what He intended for us. We can get to know Him a little better. When we don’t know what to do next, we can ask the One for whom nothing is hidden… nothing is unknown… nothing is secret… nothing is beyond possibility.

I know that we can go through life without seeing the Maker in “the game” with us, and that the times we really recognize He’s present are super special, but He is always in “the game” with us. There is never a moment He isn’t there. Or maybe I should say here. We can contact Him at any moment. We can get to know Him even better. We can ask Him to answer our questions and help us succeed.

The Maker of “the game” is right there beside you today. He’s praying with you. He’s helping you. He’s cheering for you to become all that He created you to be and accomplish all He wants you to accomplish in “the game” He created. So go ahead… Get a little excited… because the Maker is in “the game!”

The Unseen New

This week, Alex has been learning about the moon in his science studies. He’s been learning about the moon’s atmosphere (or lack thereof), lunar eclipses, phases of the moon and so forth.

One interesting little piece of information which emerged as he learned is that we cannot see a new moon. Each month, the moon goes through phases, and we can see most of them. We can see the crescent moon and the full moon, but we cannot see the new moon. It’s not that the moon has gone away or ceased to exist. It’s just that we can’t see it at the moment.

The same is true in our lives. God lovingly leads us through different phases. In a lot of those phases, we can see what God is up to. Others around us can tell what God is doing in us and through us. But sometimes when God is starting something new in us, through us and for us, we cannot see what He’s doing.

In fact, you may look at your life right now and think that God isn’t working at all. But the truth of the matter is that He is there–working behind the scenes– bringing about something new in your life. You may not be able to see it yet. You may wonder what happened to that bright, full, glorious life and work that everyone could see so clearly. Maybe your life, your purpose, your destiny, your next step, your connections, your provision seems hidden or lost. Right now, you may wonder what God is up to.

I’ll tell you what He’s up to… something new. Soon, a sliver will show up. Then a crescent will appear. Before you know it, the light will be spilling over the darkness of what was hidden in its newness, and life will start making sense again. And at some point, what God is doing will be in full view, reflecting His shining power at work in you and through you.

So, if you look up at the night sky of your life right now and don’t see anything, remember that the God Who set the moon to govern the night sky regularly hides it from view because something new is on its way!

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