Praise, Pray & Prepare

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!

A Great Read

I hated reading.  Don’t hate me.  I didn’t say I still hate reading.  I just said that I used to hate it.  In fact, until I got to my sophomore year at SAGU, I only read the Bible and books that I had to read for school.  There was one small window as a preteen when I enjoyed a couple of Star Wars novels, but apart from that, reading was anathema to me.

That all changed when Dr. Amy Alexander began her Comp 1 class with a devotion each day.  She would often read from a book from this one particular author.  As she read passages from the book and elaborated on them, I became entranced.  I was fascinated by this person who could write in such a way that it drew me in.  After hearing her read from this author’s book a few times, I had to find out who he was.  So I asked her after class one to to tell me that guy’s name so that I could write it down.

I was so excited about finding an author whose writing I enjoyed that I wanted to be sure to tell my parents the next weekend I was home from college.  They are avid readers, and I was sure they would also be overjoyed.  In fact, I was sure they would want to read his books, too.  I launched into telling Mom about it as soon as I got home.

“Mom, I have to tell you about this new author.  I usually don’t like reading, but I’ve got to find this guy’s books.  I could read anything he writes. His name is Max Lucado.”

My mom just laughed, and said, “Yeah, I know about him.  I have three or four of his books.”

I was blown away that she knew of the igniter of my reading passion.  And even more blown away that she had some of his books.  So when she asked if I’d like to borrow a couple of them to take back to school when I went back, I was ecstatic.

She added, “If you like his writing, I bet you’ll like this other author’s writing, too.”  That author was Charles Swindoll.

From there, I was introduced to the writings of Robert Schuller, Norman Vincent Peale, and others.  Suddenly, I liked to read.  I was a reader. Wow!

I’ve still read almost everything Lucado has written over the years.  And as time has gone on, I’ve discovered other authors I enjoy… Francis Chan, Kyle Idleman and Mark Batterson.

I mean, I read other books sometimes.  I listen to Christian fiction audiobooks by Ted Dekker, Terri Blackstock, Dee Henderson and Wayne Thomas Batson.  I picked up some leadership knowledge from John Maxwell, Peter Drucker and Henry Blackaby.  I’ve grown spiritually from reading titles like God’s Armorbearer and A Tale of Three Kings.  But in the end, I always gravitate back to the style that really hits home with me.  Something positive, upbeat.  Something that challenges but in a hopeful manner.  Something that lifts me to new heights of dreaming and believing and living.

So today, I finished reading chapter one of Dick and Ruth Foth’s new book, Known.  Chapter 1 is worth the price I paid for the entire book!  I can’t even speak to the rest of the book, but if you love a good story with a great point, you’ll love this book.

Why would I recommend a book I love?  Because Dr. Amy Alexander recommended one to me 25 years ago, and it has made a significant impact on my life.  Truth be told, I am the person and the writer I am today in large part due to being introduced to that first book.

So, even if you don’t like to read (anything other than the Bible… and this blog)… or even if you read slowly like I do… let me encourage you to find that author, that book, that genre, that format (hardcopy, digital or audio), and read, read, read.  Pick something you will enjoy, and it will motivate you to read more.  And as you read, your world will expand with new dreams, ideas and possibilities.

Christmas Roadtrips

Today we will put away the Christmas decor for another fifteen weeks or so, and wrap up our new family tradition of celebrating Christmas In July.  So I’ve been reflecting on my Christmas memories as a child this morning.  Many of those revolve around road trips to visit extended family. And when I say road trip, I mean road trip.  Like 1,000-1,500 miles and 20-24 hours of drive time.

We would leave on a Sunday night after church.  We would load everything in the station wagon and hit the road.  No seatbelt laws meant we kids could sleep on the slats Dad had specially made to fit in the back of the land yacht. Luggage underneath the slats and sleeping bags on top of the slats.

Mom would drive first because she was a night owl.  She would get us to daybreak, and then Dad… having gotten some sleep while she drove… would take the helm and keep us rolling.

We stopped only to fuel up and eat.  While we rode, we played all the classic road trip games… because there were no cell phones… or on-board wifi… or iPads… or built-in video players which could play videos or your gaming system.  No, we read… and slept… and talked… and drove each other nuts.

But you know what? I never thought twice about what direction to drive… or how much money we would need to take with us… or whether gas stations were open on Sundays or not… or whether we would get where we were supposed to be going.  Mom and Dad said, “Get in the car. We’re going to see your grandparents.”  And I did.  I just got in that station wagon, and let them do all the planning and driving.  They took care of when to stop and when to go.  They determined which roads were best for us.  They made sure we had all we needed to make the trip as easy as possible.  I just got in and trusted them.

Oh, that I would always treat God the same way.  That I would simply get in the car of life which He is driving, and let Him take care of all the details.  Sometimes I do better than most.  Other times, I’m like a 6-year old trying to tell his parents what time to leave, which road to take, how fast to drive, what time to stop or go.  I know, it doesn’t make any sense.

In those moments, my Heavenly Father is kind and gracious enough to say from Matthew 11:30, “Keep company with Me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  In other words, “Allen, let me take care of the details… You just get in and ride along with me. I’ll get you where you need to be, when you need to be there.”

I’m glad He’s driving.  And since He is, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to climb in the back, rest, and have fun looking at the billboards and license plates we pass.

And oh yeah, just one more time this year… Merry Christmas in July!

Christmas In July- Continued

It has been such a fun week of celebrating Christmas in July as a family.  Memories have been made, and I believe a new tradition may have just begun for Team A.  We even drew names to get each other a small, inexpensive gift.

During this other “most wonderful time of the year,” I am reminded of the classic Christmas movies I loved watching growing up, and which our kids are now getting to enjoy. I loved those old claymation-type animated Christmas movies like Frosty The Snowman and Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.

One of my favorite parts of the Rudolph storyline is when they need to find toys for Santa to give and Rudolph leads them to the “Island of Misfit Toys.”  There lived the toys that had flaws… and mistakes… and missing parts.  They were the toys culture said didn’t match up.  But Rudolph believed there were kids who would love having those toys.

Maybe sometimes you feel like a misfit toy yourself.  Maybe you don’t seem to match up to culture’s “ideals.”  Perhaps you don’t have the perfect shape or figure.  Maybe you’re not quite as young or glamorous as you once were.  Perhaps your résumé or ACT score isn’t what someone thinks it should be.

But for every person, God has a purpose and a plan.  There is someone out there who needs what you have to offer.  There is someone out there who will love you for you.  There is someone who doesn’t see your flaws and mix-ups as problematic.  Instead, they see you as unique and wonderful.

Ignore those purveyors of “perfect.”  Be yourself.  You have worth and value just like you are.  Ask God to reveal His purpose for your life, and point you toward His plan.  You’ll find Him pick you up off the “island of misfit toys” and place you in a healthy, loving environment designed just for you!

Super Guide

Our boys crack me up!  Awhile back, they discovered on their Super Mario Bro’s game that there is a mode called “Super Guide” in which the computer takes over and completes a course perfectly without any mistakes. At any point, they can take back over from Super Guide and keep playing themselves.

So, they do what they can do on the game and then hand it off to the Super Guide to handle what they can’t.  In fact, those crazy guys will let the Super Guide play an entire level, get to the end, and then they take control back and claim the flag at the end to complete the course.

About the time I begin to think that isn’t really fair, I also begin to think… isn’t that what God does for us?  Didn’t Jesus say that He would ask the Father, and the Father would send us the Holy Spirit to be a “Super Guide” who would help us through all the difficulties of life?

So often, having done what I can do and facing something I cannot seem to accomplish on my own, I turn to my Super Guide and ask Him to get me through to complete that leg of my course.  And while He does all the work, He let’s me claim the victory flag.  It may look like I’ve done it, but really He did all the heavy lifting.

I’m glad I have the Holy Spirit as my Super Guide.  I couldn’t do this life on my own successfully.  Today, I just want to take this moment to give Him the credit for overcoming all my obstacles, defeating my opposition and making me a winner.

If you look at your life today and find yourself struggling to overcome, why not ask the ultimate Super Guide to help you succeed as well?  He knows how to help you win in life!

More Than A Few Pointers

I used to be horribly directionally challenged.  For example, I once took over driving responsibilities on a vacation trip after stopping along the way to grab a bite to eat.  We got back in the vehicle… I in the driver’s seat and my father-in-law (aka, the person who actually knew how to get where we were going)… and we headed out.

He leaned back and took a nap, and I drove like the wind… in the wrong direction! (It was pre-GPS days, people. Give me a break.)  When he woke up… thirty minutes later… he sat up, looked around and mentioned that something didn’t look right.  He had made that trip numerous times and could tell all was not as it should be. When he asked me which way I turned as we headed out and I told him, we all realized what had happened… I went the wrong way because I was not familiar with the journey.

That little mishap cost us an extra hour of drive time and a little extra fuel on a vacation trip. But not knowing which path to take on the journey of life… well, that mis-step could cost us dearly.  It’s why I’m so glad the writer of the 23rd Psalm lets us know that the Good Shepherd (aka, God… the one who knows which direction we need to go every time) not only provides for us, but He also points us in the right direction.

Verses 2 and 3 say that He leads us to what we most need, and He guides us along the right paths if we will just follow Him.  The song writer also writes in Psalm 37 that God even directs our steps… those smaller parts of the bigger journey.

If you need guidance and direction in your life today, commit to follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd. He won’t steer you wrong.  He won’t even take a nap along the way.

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