The people behind me in this picture really get what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote in Romans 12:1, “That’s the most sensible way to serve God.” I had the privilege of watching them serve their community with a free Christmas Market craft fair, complete with free food. Then they invited the community to come watch a Christmas movie at the local theater, which they had sponsored. At the end, they handed out small tokens as a reminder of the movie, and they thanked everyone who came for the privilege of getting to offer this for them.

There was no sucker punch. They are the staff and volunteers from a local church in the town where I’m visiting. Yet no one stood and preached a sermon. At least not a planned spiritual speech with an invitation to respond. Instead, they laughed… and loved… and served… and helped… and gave… and bought stuff for sale at vendors’ booths. I saw them help sweep up the theater with the employees after the movie. I saw them clean dishes and put away tables and chairs so the maintenance person at the church wouldn’t have to. And they smiled the whole time they were doing it.

They didn’t give to get something in return. They simply gave. They simply loved. They simply served. No wonder their community loves them and turns to them when they have a need. They hear the sermons being preached by these folks’ actions louder than any spoken from a pulpit.

I’m so glad I was here tonight. I go to bed inspired. Inspired to live my life like them when I wake up tomorrow. Inspired to truly give… truly love… truly help… truly serve. Inspired to make a difference that makes a lasting impact.

I traveled almost a couple hundred miles today to speak at a conference for teenagers and leaders.   I was expecting simply to give of myself, but my prayer was that God would speak to me as well.

I read in Psalms recently that the Lord bends down to listen to us, and the Psalm writer said that because God does that, he always prays… or talks with God.  God listens.  That’s a big deal.

He heard my prayer to both speak THROUGH me and TO me.  He bent down… paid attention… and listened to me.  He did help me as I spoke tonight, and then during a time of hanging out and grabbing a snack with others on the team for the event, He spoke to me… to my life… to my situation.

He will listen to you, too, you know.  Like a good parent, He gets down on our level… looks us in the eye… and gives us His full attention.  As He does, you’ll know that it’s safe to talk with Him… to open your heart… to spill your guts… to tell Him what’s on your mind.  And like the Psalmist, that conversation will probably lead to you wanting to have a lot more with Him.

So, thanks for bending down and listening to me, Lord!  Talk again tomorrow?

I want to be like my boys when I grow up.

Alex and Austin, nine and six, have faith.  In fact, their faith is stronger than mine oftentimes.  How do I know?

They have these prayer journals, and in them they write… or draw a picture of sometimes… things they are asking God to do for them.  To them, everything in that book is of utmost importance.  For example, they prayed we would  get a dog.  They have also prayed for things like video games they want.

Those are cute, but recently they added a close family friend who has been battling some serious health issues.  They love this person, and decided to add them to those things they are believing God to do for them.  It’s so great to hear their small whispered prayers under our out loud prayers each night.  Their faith inspires me.

Now, you might mock this, and say it is nothing more than a glorified Christmas wish list for Santa, but I beg to differ.  Here’s why… Their faith makes sense.  When a prayer in their book gets answered by God, they put a check mark on that page… showing them that God came through and did what they asked of Him.  When they come up against something they want or need, they suggest to us that they put it in their prayer book because every request in there has a check mark by it.  Every… last… one.  In their mind, they simply ask God to help them out, believe Him and wait for it to happen.

Imagine that.  And guess what… every time, God comes through for them.  When something isn’t happening in their desired time frame, they don’t quit believing just because it hasn’t happened yet.  Sure they wish it would.  Sure discouragement tries to deter them from believing.  But then they simply flip through the previous pages and see all the check marks, and they remember that God always comes through for them.

No wonder Jesus said the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like children.  Scripture says it is impossible to please God without faith, and kids have faith… so that makes God smile.  He likes the way kids trust Him implicitly and don’t quit believing in Him just because it hasn’t happened yet.

My encouragement to us today is that we adults can have prayer books, too, in which we write down what we are asking God to do for us.  And we can trust God to come through for us.  Go back through your life, and look at all the check marks already placed beside so many things He has done for you.  Then don’t give up believing for those pages that haven’t gotten their check makes… YET.

I started to try to answer all the arguments for why this could be considered ridiculous or reckless, but then I decided to just do like my boys… and have faith.  You can call me names like naive… or misguided… or pie-in-the-sky… but I prefer childlike.  And you can be sure that when I check off some of the requests in my own prayer book, I’ll let you know.

For the record, this week we found out that the friend who had been given a very serious diagnosis had that diagnosis changed to a much less severe one.   It just so happens that an acquaintance of theirs is a medical professional who was able to get them into the right specialist in another city almost immediately.  Then another friend happens to be the specialist in our area for another part of the process, and for the first time in probably over a month, our friend had a terrific, full night’s sleep the night before last.

Coincidence?  Think again.  Two young boys dared to believe that the God who can give our family a dog, or the video game they wanted, can just as easily heal our friend.  I’m with them.

Why don’t you take a chance today and start your own prayer book?

The old adage says, “You can’t keep a good man down.”  I think it needs to be tweaked to say, “You can’t keep a godly person down.”  At least that’s what Scripture points out to us in Proverbs 24:16.  I read it again just today, and I love it!

It reminds me of the chorus in the Family Force 5 song, “Sweep The Leg,” that goes like this…

You can’t stop me

You can’t drop me

You can’t block me

You can’t break me

You can’t shake me

Don’t make me

C,mon!  If you belong to Christ, and you’ve been knocked down… get up again.  The fact that the writer of the Proverb said, “a godly person may trip seven times,” is significant.  In Jewish writing, seven was the number of completion… the ultimate.  In other words, a godly person may be completely tripped up by some situation, but they are going to get up every time and end up victorious because they cannot be stopped!

Boom!  There it is… Godly people, don’t worry about what has happened to you.  It may have knocked you down, but it hasn’t knocked you out.  Get up again, and just keep getting up.  You’re going to win!

Now let’s get out there and have a terrific Tuesday, people!

This is not my usual post.  It’s just that I’ve been rolling this idea around in my head and heart recently, and I haven’t been able to get away from it.  It’s a little deeper thought… and almost purely spiritual.  It may seem like semantics, but it is a subtle nuance which has the potential to revolutionize our perception of God and His intentions toward us.

Have you ever noticed that we can somewhat accept that God would condescend to walk with us, but we struggle to accept that He would invite us to ascend to walk with Him?

I think it is because the first could be viewed as pity, while the second invites intimacy.  We can envision that a loving God would stoop to help us in our hopeless condition.  Yet when it comes to Him being so interested in us that He would invite us to come spend time with Him as a friend, we can barely wrap our minds around it.  Isn’t relationship why He created us in the first place, though?  He had angels.  He didn’t need more servants.  He had created beings who worship Him non-stop.  He didn’t need more worshipers.  He wanted family.  He wanted friends.  He wanted… and still wants… people who want to be with Him.
He does not simply stoop to meet our needs out of His abundance and superiority.  He reaches out a hand of companionship and invites us to walk with Him… talk with Him… enjoy time with Him… and allow Him to enjoy being with us.

Just like Jesus invited His disciples to get away with Him so they could have some time to just relax and be together, He invites you today to just be with Him.  And that momentary invitation extends to on-going relationship.

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?

As I walked across the parking lot and started to get into my vehicle after having preached in the Sunday morning service at a church in Texas recently, I noticed these little flowers growing in the midst of nothing but rocks.  No grass.  No other plants.  They looked so out of place.  But there they were… just growing and beaming brightly.  They brightened my day because they reminded me that God can cause us to flourish regardless of our situation.

I’m reminded of Isaiah 35 as I think of them today.  It is a chapter of hope.  It speaks of how God can bless when and where He chooses, regardless of how bleak the situation appears.

Today, you may be going through a difficult time.  Perhaps your health is under attack, like a couple friends of ours are right now.  Or maybe you’re facing some financial challenges that have your back against a wall like another person I know.  Or maybe you’re going through a drought in the area of friendships.

Know this… God doesn’t need your situation to be perfect… or optimal… or favorable… or even okay… to cause your life to blossom right now!  He can cause life to spring out of death.  He can cause health to spring out of sickness.  He can cause abundance to spring out of lack.  He can cause companionship to spring out of loneliness.

What looks impossible to you is possible with Him.  You may think you’re in the wrong place, but don’t worry because at the right time God can cause your life to push up through those desert rocks and bud… and bloom… and blossom into fullness!

Why not take some time to look up the 35th chapter of Isaiah today, and find encouragement there?  Even if you are not a believer in Christ yet, that chapter is full of the kind of hope I’ve found in knowing Christ personally and following Him.  I believe that if you’ll open your heart to Him, you’ll find that same hope.

Yeah… I know.  I crawled out of bed at 3:17am after having laid there awake for about 25 minutes.  Sometime around 4:30am it hit me.  I completely forgot to post yesterday.  Quite honestly, I panicked for just a moment.  My mind raced as to how to solve the dilemma.  Maybe I could write it right then, and no one would realize it.  No, too late for that.  Next option… write two posts right away to make up for missing that one.  Or how about trying to write the absolute best post I’ve ever written to make people forget that I messed up?

Ok, I realize that’s a little dramatic.  And most of those thoughts just shot through my brain in a nanosecond before I came to my senses and thought… it’s just a blog post.  No one’s life is going to fall apart because I failed to post one day.

I seriously just totally forgot to do it yesterday.  The truth is, I was working on my next book, hanging out with my family, and just enjoying this season of life to its fullest.  I thought one time yesterday that I needed to remember to blog. I just made a mistake. Fortunately, I’m not going to get scolded by readers like you.

So, it’s totally not a big deal.  But as I began to think about what I might write today, it occurred to me that this is the story of all of our lives.  We all mean to do well.  We want to do right.  But we make bad choices… make bad decisions… make mistakes… have lapses of judgment.  The Apostle Paul turned the phrase this way in his letter to the believers in Rome, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”

Everyone.  All.  Well, at least I’m not alone in my mistakes.  No one is perfect.  Nobody matches God’s record of getting it right every time.

Great!  Thanks for the encouragement and motivation today, Allen.  This is really an “Up” post.

But wait… it is.  You see, when we make a mistakes… when we blow it… when we make poor decisions… when we flat out choose to do wrong… we often later feel badly about it.  Like I did about missing that blog post yesterday.  I made a commitment, but didn’t keep it yesterday.  So we try to cover it up.  Or we try to fix it.  Or we try to compare ourselves to others.  When what we really need to do is simply admit it, and ask for forgiveness.

You see, Paul didn’t stop at slamming us all with the verdict of “losers who can’t get it right 100% of the time.”  Check out what he went on to write in the next two verses…

Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed His life, shedding His blood.”

What?!  Just say, “I’m sorry.  Please forgive me,”? That’s it?  Just accept that the punishment has already been delivered on my behalf?  Just move on, and try to not do it again?

That’s it.

I mean, I assume we all get that, if we are being forgiven so generously, we will do our best to not make that mistake again.  I know I don’t plan to miss another blog post in light of your graciousness toward me.  And I sure don’t plan to sin again in light of God’s kindness toward me.

By the way, that same Paul who wrote those words kind of had an idea of what it felt like to “fall short.”  He claimed to be the best of the best among religious leaders, but he ended up chasing down, imprisoning, having beaten, and having killed Christians.  He was guilty of multiple hate crimes.  Then he found out that God would forgive him.

And if God will forgive him, I have a hunch that He will forgive you for cheating on that test… taking another sip when things got stressful… going to that website again… lying to your boss… or whatever else you did that I can’t think to list. Or maybe you are lying in a bed, close to the end of your time on this planet, and thinking about all the wrong things you’ve done.  Wow, they can really add up, can’t they?  Don’t worry… He’ll forgive them all in one fell swoop.

We all fall short.  And God raises us up to His level when we ask Him to.

So, I’m sorry I failed yesterday.  No excuse.  No defense.  I fell short.  And I’m sorry it happened. Will you please forgive me?  I promise I will do my best not to let it happen again.

Hey… that might be a pretty good prayer for you to use if you fell short yesterday, too.  Go ahead, you can borrow it. I don’t mind.