If you’ve read the blog, you know that I’m a minister, and I am not ashamed of that in any way. In fact, I feel privileged to be called to such a special role.  So, obviously, my blog often has a spiritual point which goes beyond the initial level of being positive, uplifting, encouraging and motivating.

Then there are nights like this when I’ve just gotta get my preach on.  Sometimes truth is just so good to me that I have to share it with someone.  Tonight… its you.

I kept dwelling on that quote I posted yesterday.  PR31 had said it, and it just rang true in my heart as something I needed to meditate on.  So it’s been rolling around in my head and heart since last night, and a little more has come to me…

1) Praise today like the victory came yesterday.  In other words, if God had done something amazing for you yesterday, you wouldn’t have any problem thanking Him today for it.  And you wouldn’t think anything of telling others how good He’s been to you.  Well, go ahead.  What’s stopping you?  Oh, the miracle hasn’t happened yet?  Well, don’t let that stop you.  God has done tons of other great things for you already.  Begin thanking Him for those, and just slip right on over into thanking Him for that miracle you need right now… that answer you need right now… that job you need right now… that healing you need right now… that provision you need right now… that favor with your boss, or spouse, or neighbor you need right now.  Thank Him as if He’s already done it.  That stirs up your faith and belief that He will come through for you.

(C’mon, somebody! I told you I was gonna preach.)

2) Pray today like the victory is coming today.  When you ask God to come through for you, believe He is going to do it… today.  Don’t make your prayer so weak and ineffective that you are only asking God to eventually come through for you.  That lacks the faith which puts a smile on God’s face when we ask Him for something.  It’s like we don’t really expect Him to do it for us.  Believe for things to turn around at school… today!  Believe for things to turn around with your health… today!  Believe for things to turn around at work… today!  Believe for things to turn around in that relationship… today!  If you’re going to ask God for something that only He can do, then why not go the rest of the way and believe Him to do it today?

3) Prepare today like the victory is coming tomorrow.  Plenty of times in Scripture, God told His people to get ready because He was going to bless them or give them victory the next day.  You know, when we have something big we need to do the next day, we know that we are down to the wire and have to get everything in place so that we are ready for it.  In the same way, when we praise God for a victory like it already happened… and pray like He’s giving us the victory today… we had better prepare today like the victory is coming tomorrow.  If you knew that tomorrow you’d be healed… or promoted… or recognized… or forgiven… or provided with all the money you need… what would you need to do today to be ready for that?  Well, what’s stopping you?  Get after it!

Listen, God wants to bless you.  He wants you to be a part of His family… a child of the King… royalty.  Accept that.  Accept Him.  And then praise, pray & prepare each day!

After a few days of helping my sister get moved into her new house, we joined my cousin and his family at a local Mexican restaurant (my favorite  genre of food, unless desserts are a genre, for those who were curious).  The sign behind the counter was too good to pass up.  I was trying to take the picture quickly, and so it’s a little blurry… but the message is clear.

Yes, I know it says Jesús and not Jesus.  But it was a clear reminder to me of a couple things:

1) Someone is in control of everything in my life… and yours for that matter.  In fact, that Someone is in control of everything, period.  That’s good news.  Life is not a random set of occurrences.  There is a plan.  There is order, even when things seem chaotic.  When you want to rant because life seems ridiculous, and you wonder if anyone is in control, relax.  Someone’s got this.

2) That Someone who has everything under control is Jesus.  The guy who fed multiple thousands on more than one occasion with only a handful of food… the guy who walked on water… the guy who calmed a storm-tossed sea with only His words… the guy who gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and movement to the paralyzed… the guy who raised a few people from the dead… and also the same guy who, after taking some vicious torture and dying for our crimes against God, rose from the dead Himself three days later… Yeah, that’s who’s got this day under control.  Jesus is the Person in charge.

That means that, regardless of how weary you are… or how sick you are… or how lonely you are… or how broke you are… or how dysfunctional you are… or how challenged you are… there is Someone you can turn to for help.

In the local Mexican restaurant, they think it’s Jesús.  But in reality… in all of life… the Person who’s really in charge… the Person who truly has got this… is Jesus!  If you have a problem, bring it to Him today.  He’ll know just what to do to make things right.

Our family LOVES going to Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO!  It so fits our family-friendly, Christian-values idea of fun.  And there is so much for the boys to do.

One of their favorite areas is Half Dollar Holler.  And one of their favorite things to do there is climb through and jump around in the suspended netting of the “treehouse.”  At least, it’s one of their favorite things now.

It wasn’t always Austin’s favorite.

Last night, we sat around watching “old” home videos (from three or four years ago) with the boys.  Captured on video was Austin trying to enjoy the treehouse but with great trepidation.  It was obvious that he was unsure of the safety of that netting suspended ten feet above solid earth.

As we watched, Austin told us that he used to be afraid of the bouncing treehouse at Silver Dollar City because he was afraid he would fall, but that he’s not now.  Sure enough, were you to watch more recent videos or travel with us to SDC, you’d find him tearing through there with no hesitation whatsoever.

I asked Him if he reason that he’s not afraid anymore is because he knows if it will hold me up, it will hold him up. (I mean, I might weigh a little more than he does. Wink, wink.)  I must admit that I was a little shocked when he replied, “No, it’s because I’ve been on it enough times now that I know it will won’t let me down.”

Tested, tried, true.

Reliable, dependable, trustworthy.

Because it has never let him down before, he has unwavering faith that it will never let him down in the future.  And with that, I sat back in my seat, having been schooled in faith by my six-year old.

In Deuteronomy 31:8, Moses… the guy who led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, through forty years of wandering in the wilderness, and all the way to the edge of the land promised to the Israelites by God… looks Joshua… his successor who will actually lead those people into conquest of their homeland… in the eyes and tells him, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

Never.  It just won’t happen. God won’t let you down.  He is incapable of failing you. And He chooses to never abandon or give up on you.  He will go ahead of you and clear the path.  Then He will be right beside you every step of the way.

We can trust God because He has never let us down.  In fact, He has never let anyone down.  So unlike those investment commercials on the radio, His past results are indicative of His future performance.

This means you and I can relax and enjoy the ride now.  We don’t have to stress.  We don’t have to panic.  We can romp through life full of joy and hope and peace, knowing that He will neither fail us nor abandon us.

If you’re battling a lengthy illness, He won’t let you down.  If you’re dealing with a difficult divorce, He won’t let you down.  If you’re having trouble passing that class at school, He won’t let you down.  If the bills are stacking up higher than the paychecks, He won’t let you down.

So go ahead… climb the steep ramp of the treehouse of life… crawl into the netted area… and jump with confidence alongside Austin… because it hasn’t let him down before and it isn’t going to let him down this time either.

Neither will God.

Anne Shirley Cuthbert says to her friend Diana in Anne of Green Gables, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a brand new day with no mistakes yet?”  I don’t recall Diana’s response, but I know mine… YES!!!

As a self-professed guy who tries to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, do right, be good, help others, love and lead his family, and the list goes on… I for one am glad that each day the sun rises and brings with it a fresh start. Sure, I cannot undo my yesterdays, but I can choose each day to point myself in the right direction and start heading that way.

I resonate with Anne’s question. It reminds me of what the prophet Jeremiah wrote in the Old Testament book of Lamentations… “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”  In other words, no matter how yesterday went, the Lord loves us and gives us hope for today.  He helps us today.  He forgives and forgets.

That’s good news for imperfect people like me… and maybe you.  It’s good news for those who have a lot of days left. And it’s good news for those who have less days ahead of them than they do behind them. Each day is full of new, abundant mercies for all of us.

Bad day at work yesterday? Get up, get dressed and go back to the office or store or worksite because He’s giving you new mercies for today!

Feeling like a lousy parent for mishandling a situation with your kids at a crucial moment?  Roll out of bed, give them a hug, and ask their forgiveness because He has new mercies for today!

Broken relationships that have remained shattered for years due to your negligence? Make the call, send the text, get together for coffee because He’s giving you new mercies for today!

Failed a test at school?  Load your backpack, grab your books and get there before the bell rings again because He’s giving you new mercies for today!

Staring at a bad prognosis and a lifetime of regrets?  Pick up the Bible, bow your head, ask for forgiveness and a fresh start because He’s giving you new mercies for today!

His love never quits… He won’t run out of mercies… He is always there.  So lift your chin… and lift your heart… and lift your hands… because He has new mercies for you today!

PR31 and I LOVE the Smoky Mountains.  I don’t think I can overstate how much we enjoy it there. We would probably live there if we could. So, needless to say, we vacation there as often as possible.

Years ago… like B.C…. you know, before children… we had rented a house in Pigeon Forge for a week.  It was just the two of us that trip and so we had the whole house to ourselves.

One night, I got up in the middle of the night to make a visit to the facilities (aka, bathroom).  And since I didn’t want to wake PR31… because that’s how sweet a husband we all know I am, ha… I decided to navigate the trip through two doorways and back completely in the dark. I was successfully halfway through the adventure, feeling more relieved and incredibly sleepy, but as I turned to go out the bathroom door and took a step, my whole world suddenly came crashing to the floor.

My foot lost its footing… I stumbled… my shin hit something solid… Losing my balance as my body lurched forward, my face slammed into something metal and my nose exploded in pain… This was followed by my face sliding down a wall of some type… ending with me in a heap on the floor… growing… and feeling a little damp.

I was dazed and confused. I couldn’t figure out where I was or what had happened.

Till the light came on.  Angela said she heard a loud thud on the wall behind the headboard and then me groaning. It startled her, and so she came to see what had happened. It was only when she brought light to the situation that we discovered what had transpired.

In my semi-comatose state, I forgot that we were on vacation… in a different house and turned to the leave the bathroom where our door was in our house.  The only problem is that where the door was in our house was where the shower stall was in this vacation rental. I had stepped on the ledge at the base, lost my balance, hit my shin on the base, slammed my nose into the hot or cold knob, slid down the fiberglass wall and landed in a pile at the still damp floor of the shower.

PR31 laughed as she helped me up out of the shower and back to bed. I did not laugh at the time… but it’s hilarious now.

The truth is… I just needed light. Even a small nightlight would have done the trick.  Light would have pointed out where I was and where I needed to go.  (In fact, if I recall correctly, we bought a nightlight to put in that bathroom for the rest of the vacation.)

We all walk into some dark spots in life.  We’re not really sure where we are or how to get where we need to go.  In the dark, we get turned around and confused.  We cling to what we have known, but that may not be where we are at the moment.

We need light.  We need someone outside of ourselves who can bring light to the situation so that we don’t stumble… and fall… and hurt ourselves anymore.  We need God.

I love what the Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 42:16…

“I will lead My blind people by roads they have never traveled. I will turn their darkness into light and make rough country smooth before them. These are my promises, and I will keep them without fail.” (GNT)

God wants to shine the light in your dark places today and make rough country smooth before you.  He’s promised to do it… and He always keeps His promises!

I looked left and then right. In that moment, I estimated my car’s ability, my driving skills, the speed of oncoming vehicles (from both directions) and calculated that I could pull out of the Academy Sporting Goods parking lot and onto the street with time and space to spare.  So I did. And I was right.

However, the guy in the pick-up truck which I pulled out in front of disagreed… vehemenently.  He yelled. He shook his fist. He blew his horn. When we got to a stoplight, he started to get out of his vehicle. And I started to get scared. The light turned green and I took off.

I was supposed to be going home on a lunch break, but now I felt like I was driving for my life. The guy just kept following me. I didn’t want him finding out where I lived.  So I drove all over the place… making U-turns… taking back roads… speeding up… slowing down.

No matter what I did, I couldn’t shake this guy. So I finally decided to go home. I figured that maybe I could get there fast enough to get out of my car and into the house before he could get out of his truck and pummel me into little cookie crumbs. So I floored it and made it into my driveway.

But I wasn’t fast enough, and before I got into the back gate, he had pulled in the driveway, jumped out and was yelling at me.  He had caught up with me, and I didn’t know what was about to happen.

Fortunately for me, he was all bark and all bite.  It probably didn’t hurt that I was very apologetic and scared silly. He finally had enough of cussing and correcting, got back in his truck and took off.  And I stood there shaking because I had not been able to shake him off my trail.

David closes out the 23rd Psalm by highlighting the character of the Good Shepherd… namely that God’s goodness and unfailing love… much like the guy whom I couldn’t shake… follow us constantly!  Only God’s goodness and unfailing love don’t create fear or intimidation. Instead they bring us blessing.

The point of this verse is that we can’t shake God off our trail.  The Old Testament prophet Isaiah says that we are all like sheep and we all stray off, but that our Good Shepherd chases us down with His grace and forgiveness.  In the New Testament, Jesus told the story of a shepherd who had one sheep out of a hundred stray away and get lost, but the shepherd left the ninety-nine to go after the one.  These other Scriptures reaffirm what David was saying.  You can’t shake God off your trail.

For His sheep, the Good Shepherd’s goodness and unfailing love are like heat-seeking missiles which have locked-on to their target and cannot evade them eventually catching up.  It’s so great to know that God is chasing us down… not to yell at us or threaten us, but to bless us… and help us… and forgive us.

In the end, David says that he will live in the house of the Lord forever.  Who wouldn’t want to after discovering how amazing the Good Shepherd is to His sheep?  God’s blessings will follow us all the way to forever in Heaven with Him.  That’s a lot better than being chased by an angry guy in a pick-up… and I would know!

Here’s the thing you have to know… whether you believe it or not, there is a real devil and he is opposed to you simply because God values you and wants you in His forever family.  The devil and his imps are your enemies.

Here’s the other thing you need to know… They may be your enemies, but God is the Good Shepherd and your enemies are no match for Him.  It’s not even close… not even a competition.  The devil is not the equal opposite of God.  He is a defeated enemy gasping for his last breath.

So when David writes about God as the Ultimate Shepherd in Psalm 23, he writes from an experienced perspective.  David was a shepherd… a shepherd who provided for, pointed and protected his sheep.  He defeated lions and bears with sling, stick and bare hands. So he didn’t mind taking his sheep out each day and making sure they had a good meal right in the area where enemies lurked… because he knew how to handle those enemies.

And God knows perfectly well how to vanquish your enemies.  I like God’s moxey… His bravado… His flair for thumbing His nose in the face of the enemy.  David says that God basically sets the table for a feast, makes us the guest of honor and blesses us… right in front of our enemies. And they can’t do a single thing about it because He’s standing right there beside us, ever vigilant!

So eat in peace today.  Enjoy God’s blessings today.  Let God honor you today as you stay close to Him.  Don’t let the enemy give you an ounce of worry or concern.  God is showing His enemies that this is how He blesses those who belong to Him. They can skulk around the perimeter and watch you be blessed and honored, but they can’t keep it from happening.

JoAnna Gaines made a sign on one of the “Fixer Upper” TV shows which read, “It’s a good day for a good day.”  I would tweak it to say, “It’s a good day to belong to the Good Shepherd!”  Today, let Him prepare for you a feast, an honor and a blessing!