If you have read my book, I Got A “D” In Leadership: Anyone Can Lead… or if you’ve read this blog much… then you know that I love watching NFL football.  My closest word picture for describing to PR31 how much I enjoy it is asking her if she knows how she feels when the Countdown To Christmas starts on Hallmark Channel, and they start showing the Christmas romantic comedy movies every day.  When she lights up at those words, I tell her, “And that’s exactly how I feel about watching NFL games during football season.”

Additionally, when I’m traveling by myself, I enjoy listening to the NFL Network on satellite radio.  One of those shows allows fans to call in late in the week and make bold predictions about how they think their team will fare in the upcoming week’s games.  The only guidelines are that you have to predict that your team will win, and give a legitimate reason as to why in the form of a bold prediction.  So, some callers will say their team will win by a resounding score because their defense will score three times… or because their quarterback will throw for 500 yards and four touchdowns.  It’s both entertaining and inspiring.

I think Christians ought to live that way.  We ought to make bold predictions about our life.. our spouse’s life… our kids’ lives… our friends’ lives.  We actually have a solid foundation on which to base these bold predictions… the Word of God.  God always keeps His promises, and never fails.  So, we can make bold predictions when we line our lives up with Him.

We can declare:

– By His stripes we are healed.

– No good thing will He withhold from those who live uprightly.

– My God will supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

– God knows the plans He has for us, plans to prosper us and not to harm us.

– We will lie down in peace and sleep.

– He will never leave us nor forsake us.

– He will restore double to us for the trouble the enemy inflicts on us.

And there are a ton more bold predictions in His Word which we can hold onto.  The power of life and death is in the tongue, according to Solomon’s proverb.  So today, begin to speak those bold predictions out loud over yourself, your family and your friends.  Because if people can call in and make random guesses about the outcome of a football game, shouldn’t believers in and followers of the eternal God be able to make bold predictions rooted in proven truth?

In doing some research recently, I came across some info on Wikipedia about “lamp trimmers.”  These were people who served on board ships before electrical lighting was used.  They were specialists who would go around the ship every few hours to make sure the oil lamps were all burning brightly, since the only light under the deck of a ship was what these lamps provided.

These folks were skilled at knowing just how to trim the wick to make it burn the brightest and the longest.  They knew just how much oil to keep in the lamps so that they would not run out, but would not burst into flames if they got knocked off and broke.  In other words, they made it their life’s work to provide light for others.  And they did it consistently, faithfully.

We live in a world much like those levels under the deck of the old-time ships.  And we should be those who commit themselves to making sure we provide light in the midst of darkness.

Light gives hope.  Light shows the way.  Light reveals.  People in our lives need light.  Let’s be lamp trimmers.

The 58th chapter of the book of Isaiah in Scripture challenges us to help those in need, saying that not only will we turn the darkness into light by doing so, but that the Lord will also bless us bountifully for our efforts.

It doesn’t take much to bring light to someone’s darkness… a kind word… a thank you note… buying them a coffee or a meal… sending them an encouraging text… congratulating them when they have done well what they do… helping them when they are busy and feeling overwhelmed.  It doesn’t have to be overdone, just like the lamp trimmers didn’t overfill the lamps.

We can trim lamps at home… at work… at church… at the gym… at the restaurant… at school… online… anywhere.  And you know, as we provide light for others, we also help light our own path.

So, from the early outset of this week, let’s determine to be those who bring light to the darkness of anyone we possibly can.  Trim on!

Just this morning, our 9-year old, Alex, reminded me of a deep truth in some very simple terms.  He asked me if I’d like to play the new level he created on the Wii U game, Mario Maker.  He said, “I think you’ll like it… I call it ‘God’s Path’.”

Here’s a pic…

Alex then began to describe to me how it is laid out.  At the beginning, you get to choose one of two paths to take in the game.  Each has an initial challenge, with a slight difference… the challenge on the upper path (aka, “God’s Path”) has a green shell… the challenge on the lower path (aka, “the Devil’s Path”) has a red shell.  He informed me that green means go, and red means stop.  Then he told me that I would definitely want to take the upper path and face the challenge with the green shell.  By choosing “God’s Path,” there would be a few challenges along the way, but there would be plenty of “power-ups” provided also to help overcome those challenges.  But on “the Devil’s path,” there would be a ton of challenges which could not be overcome… no way to win.

He had my full attention at this point, and I couldn’t wait to play.  As directed, I took “God’s Path” first.  It was a breeze!  I zipped through it with no problems, and when I got to the end, it dropped me out of the tunnel at the top of the flag pole where I could get the highest score and an extra life.

Then Alex says I should try playing “the Devil’s path.”  I told him I didn’t want to because I liked “God’s Path” and would never want to take “the Devil’s path.”  He replied, “I just want you to see how hard it is, Daddy.”  How could I refuse?

So, I took the lower path.  What a train wreck! I’m already no gamer.  But this path was so full of enemies and challenges, without any power-ups to help me get past them, that I had to re-start over and over… and over and over… and over and over again.  And when I finally forced the game to the end, it dumped me out so close to the bottom of the flagpole that I could only get the lowest score possible.

Now, I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I still cut… and I’m at least smart enough to see what he was showing me.  Talk about your armchair theologian!  This 9-year old kid just laid out for me the truth of the value of choosing to follow God’s plan for my life instead of the enemy’s way.

And on this Friday, I invite you to take a tip from Alex… choose “God’s Path” in real life.  Though you may face challenges there, too, they will be far fewer, and you will always have the power you need to overcome them.  Conversely, if you choose to take “the Devil’s path,” good luck with that.  It’s impossible to complete successfully, and it will cost you what could’ve been.

To quote the famous poem by Robert Frost…

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Truer words may never have been spoken… unless you count a 9-year old armed with a video game!

Our pastor shared a great illustration at church yesterday that I think applies to everyone… even those who don’t claim to know Christ and follow Him.  In fact, a lady who reads the blog regularly leaned over and said, “Sounds like that could be your next blog post.”  So, I’m sharing it with you today…

Our youth pastor, Blake, has really gotten into disc golf.  Like really gotten into it.  Like is playing tournaments all over the place… and winning.  I was talking with his parents after the service about it, and it’s a real possibility that, if he keeps going at this rate, he could start earning money playing.  Suffice it to say, he is pretty good… at least better than me. 😉

Pastor had Blake set up a goal… or a hole… or a net… or a cage… or whatever they call those things you throw the frisbee… excuse me, disc… into.  Then he had Blake take three throws at the cage.  Blake made the first two, but then missed the last one.  (We all know he missed on purpose.)

Pastor began to knock Blake for missing one throw.  He went on and on about it.  “Blake, I can’t believe you missed that last toss.  I thought you were good at this.  What’s wrong with you?” Then he pointed out that he could have spoken positive, encouraging words instead like, “Way to go, Blake!  2 out of 3 ain’t bad.  I’m so proud of you!”

We have a choice, you see, when it comes to how we are going to speak to people in our lives… our family, our friends, our co-workers, others we come across in the daily course of life.  We can encourage… or we can criticize.  It’s so unattractive when we criticize.  It doesn’t help the other person… or us… or anyone else listening.

But we have the power to lift people up each day.  In The Message paraphrase of Scripture, the Apostle Paul writes in I Thessalonians 5:15, “Look for the best in others, and always do your best to bring it out.”  We can do that today.  We can do it tomorrow.  We can do it every day.
Let’s choose today to find something good and positive in every person and in every situation.  And then let’s choose to talk about those good things instead of the other stuff.  It doesn’t mean we’re not aware of the other stuff.  It just means we choose not to focus on it.

And let’s face it… 2 out of 3 really ain’t too bad after all!

Call it trite… or cliché… or well-worn… I still love the old question which asks, “If money were no object, what would you do with your life?”

I love it because it gets down to what we really love doing.  We all get that we have to earn money, unless you’re independently wealthy already… in which case, this post is definitely for you.  But what if you didn’t need money?  What if you were so wealthy that you would never run out of money?  What would you do with your life?

Ok, after you’ve quit your job, slept a lot, gone on all those amazing vacations, and bought all the stuff you want… what then?  What would you do with your life if you didn’t even have to begin to think about how much it might cost to go after it?

What would you go to bed thinking about, dream about as you sleep, and wake up thinking about?

What wrong would you right?  What cause would you champion?  What need would you meet?  What lives would you purposefully impact for the better?

Mental Intermission… Stop now and really think about this for at least 30 seconds. Set a timer. And go…

Welcome back.  Here’s my point… 

Is it possible that this very thing that you would do then is the thing you should begin doing now?  Ok, maybe you can’t do it at the level you would if money was no object.  But you could start.  You could try.  You could begin.

Dream the big dream.  Chase the big goal.  Live a life so meaningful that you will never regret it, and no one else will ever forget it.

So, what’s stopping you?  Are you going to let that prevent you from your destiny?

Go for it!

As you know if you’ve followed the blog at all recently, I am a fan of the TV reality show Small Town, Big Mayor.  One of the guy’s on the show… “Get Down Brown”… recently said this about someone, and it totally connected with me… “This guy ain’t got no quit!”

Now, I don’t care if it is grammatically poor wording.  I love the sentiment behind it.  He spotted someone who had the attitude that they were not going to give up… regardless.

I want to live like that.  I want people to be able to say about me that I “ain’t got no quit” in me.  No matter how challenging… I want to keep doing good… having a right attitude… loving others… serving others… pleasing God… being a terrific husband… raising my sons to be men after God’s own heart.  No quit!

Let me ask you… If “Get Down Brown” met you, could he say that you “ain’t got no quit?”  I hope so, because Scripture points out that if we won’t quit, we will eventually accomplish what we’re working toward.  It will pay off.

So, let’s commit to not quit.  Unless it’s bad habits. Definitely quit those. But as for all the good we’re working toward, no quit!

Over the years, I have operated in my gift of procrastination.  If I didn’t want to do something, I would just put it off.  It’s not a successful way to live typically, but it’s what I did.  I suppose I still do it occasionally.  I put off mowing because the weedeating and cleaning up is so tedious.  And because it’s like a million degrees out there in the summer.  But I should just be grateful to have land to mow… and the tools to keep it under control… and the health to be able to get out there and do it all… and the time to be able to do it.

Yet, sometimes, I still procrastinate.  Why?  It always looks so much better when I’m done.  I’m always proud of it when I finish and look back over the yard.  I feel like slithering vermin won’t be able to sneak up on my family as easily.  And there is the sense of accomplishment that accompanies a job well-done.

Yet, sometimes, I still procrastinate.  Don’t look at me so disdainfully.  We are all tempted at times to put off till tomorrow what could be done today.

We put off forgiving.  We put off making that phone call.  We put off taking that class.  We put off getting readers and just determine to hold the phone a little further from our eyes.  We put off asking for help.

Why?  Fear… worry… doubt.  What might happen?  What could go wrong?  How much will it hurt?  What if it doesn’t go the way I hope?

C. S. Lewis wrote, “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”  But follow that up with Mark Twain saying, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

Think about it this way… What could go right if I went ahead and do what I should do?  What if it’s better than I expected?  What if it doesn’t hurt too badly, or is painless after all?

Either way takes faith.  Faith for the negative… or faith for the positive.

People nearing the end of their time on this planet would tell us to go on, and do it now.  You don’t know how long you’ve got left.  You may never get the chance again that you have today. Make the most of it.

Hug your kids.  Tell your spouse you love them.  Clean the bathroom.  Answer the call to ministry.  Choose a job you love. Get that degree.  Dial their number, and just apologize.

Don’t put off whatever it is that you’ve been dreading.  Go on!  Do it today!  Put it on the top of your to-do list, and then do it.  You’ll be glad you did.

Still reading?  Why? Put this down, and go on! 😉

As I was about to go to sleep last night, the quote in the pic above drifted into my mind.  Not sure why, or how, or where from, but I felt like I should share it today.

So, whoever you are… wherever you’re at… know this… Your best days are still in front of you… IF you make sure they are.  Quit living as if what has happened to you in the past will always be what people remember about you.  Set aside the thought that your past actions will always determine what you are or can do.

Face forward.  Make plans for a brighter future.  Determine that what you do today will outshine anything you’ve done previously.  And then press toward making what you do tomorrow make today pale in comparison.

I plan to live long, and go out strong.  My glory days haven’t happened yet.  My childhood was great.  I had some terrific teenage years.  I loved my time in college.  The early years of our marriage and ministry were wonderful.  But right now, I’m having the time of my life.  And yet I wholeheartedly believe no one- except God, because He knows the future- has seen my best yet!

I plan to be a better husband and dad!  I plan to preach better messages!  I plan to write better books and blog posts!  I plan to learn new tips and tricks to be better at fixing and building things!  I plan to catch more fish!  I say, “Look out world, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

What about you?  Which glory days of the past do you need to set aside so that you can look ahead to bigger, brighter glory days?  Is it your high school football stats?  Is it your raises and promotions when you were working?  Is it the health and fitness of your twenties?

Whether you have a week, a month, a year, a decade, or most of your life still ahead of you… determine today that what people will remember most about you, what they will say were your greatest moments, are those that are yet to come!

I am officially a fan of American Ninja Warrior.  We picked up the season part-way through, but watched the season finale of the finals in Las Vegas aired last night on television.

I can’t seem to help myself.  It’s exhilarating!  It makes my hands sweat just watching.  I mean, I don’t plan to compete myself, but I am mesmerized by the level of competition… how long and hard these people train… the unbelievable feats they make their bodies accomplish.

Then there are their personal back stories.  Some of these people have overcome extreme life situations to compete at this level.  Some are facing tough situations even as they compete.

But what I love most is the way they both challenge and cheer for each other at the same time.  Each athlete goes out there trying to not only do their own personal best, but outdo every other athlete competing.  They are competing to win.  And each one who does better, challenges those coming behind them to press past that mark.

Yet there is no smack-talk between competitors.  It’s often difficult to determine whether they want to win more themselves, or want one of their competitors to win. While waiting to make their attempt at a course, or having made their attempt… successfully or unsuccessfully… they stand on the sidelines cheering on the very competitors trying to beat them.  Most of the competitors have a shirt or symbol that represents them, and it’s a common sight to see the competitors wearing the shirt or symbol of the person making their attempt at the moment. They stand on the sidelines cheering loudly, giving advice, telling them how much time they have left.  When a competitor succeeds, they roar with excitement, jumping up and down, cheering loudly, high-fiving and hugging them.  When a competitor fails, they moan and hug them, speaking words of encouragement about how far they got and how they will succeed the next time.

To quote the old song, “And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”
Why can’t we all live like that?  What’s wrong with pushing each other to excel by our own efforts at excellence… while at the same time cheering on the very people who are competing alongside us?  I’ll tell you what’s wrong with that… NOT A THING!

That’s the way we should live.  Just because some people are self-centered and think life has to be win-lose, doesn’t mean we have to sink to that level.  The Apostle Paul challenged the believers at Thessaloniki to cheer each other on… to encourage each other as they each strove to do the best they could in living lives that honored Christ.

We can do that.  We should do that.

We should each press to do the best we can.  We should try to set the standard higher.  We should work, and train and compete in such a way that we plan to win.  We should show those coming behind us a better way… a simpler way… a clearer way.

And we should also cheer for those competing alongside us.  We should cheer for the person who gets healed, even if we’re not healed yet.  We should cheer for the person who gets an “A” on the test whether we do or not.  We should cheer for the person who creates something awesome… or breaks a record… or achieves their dream… whether we do or not.

To compete against does not have to mean that we cannot also cheer for.  It doesn’t have to be win-lose… It can be win-win!  This is not something restricted to American Ninja Warriors.  It is a culture they have created.  And we can create it where we live… work… serve… shop… IF we want to.

Last thought… you know what else I noticed about these athletes?  Because of this kind of culture they’ve created, there are lots of smiles. And when they fail to complete a course, because there are smiles, and support, and a cheering section, they simply dry themselves off and determine to do better next time.

What a concept!  I plan to live like that!  Will you join me?