Recently, we were gathered with some family and someone had purchased chocolate chip cookies from a local bakery. The boys love those cookies, and so we kind of have to monitor how many they eat. Because we do this, they sometimes come ask before they get another cookie.

We were outside working on a project when Austin came out and found Angela. He asked, “Mama, can I have another cookie.” She sweetly replied, “Sure, baby.” At that, Austin grinned, pulled a cookie out of his pocket and began to eat it.

That, my friends, is called faith.

You see, faith comes expecting. Faith comes ready to receive. Faith says, “I believe the answer will be ‘yes,’ and so I’m bringing a cookie with me. That way, when I get that ‘yes,’ I’ll have my cookie ready.”

Scripture says that when we ask the Lord for something, to exhibit true faith we must really believe that We are going to receive what we are asking for and not doubt. It’s not just a hope. It’s not just a wish. It’s expecting to receive. It’s carrying a cookie in your pocket when you go ask your mama if you can have a cookie.

What is it that you are asking of God today? What is it that you need Him to provide… or do… or answer? Are you really believing that He will Grant your request? Do you have Austin’s kind of faith… the kind that carries a cookie in your pocket when you go to ask?

Choose today to believe before you even ask that the answer will be “Yes!” Carry a cookie in your pocket… and enjoy it when God says, “Sure, baby!”

I love the meme I saw on social media last week which read, “It doesn’t snow in Louisiana… It pollens.”

It’s that time of year when the greenish-yellow powder dusts everything that sits still for thirty seconds or more. It’s that time of year when antihistamine is part of my daily regimen.

So you can imagine my delight when this morning while I was sipping my coffee, eating some cereal and having some time alone with the Lord, I heard the rumble of thunder and then a downpour of rain. You see, the driveway has been coated with so much pollen that it just wouldn’t come clean. Using the leaf blower only created yellow clouds which settled in other places… only to be replaced by more pollen. But a good hard rain… well, that was just what we needed to wash away the bee and butterfly dust.

You know, sometimes our lives get coated with guilt and regret because of the things we’ve said or done. We may or may not verbalize it to anyone, but it lays there like that greenish-yellow pollen, tinting us till we don’t look like our normal selves and creating an allergic reaction in others around us. But we don’t have to live that way. We don’t have to wear that guilt, shame or regret. If we will turn it over to God, He will wash it all away… just like the rain washing the pollen right off our driveway.

David… a guy in the Bible who cheated on his wife with the wife of one of his closest friends and comrades in arms, and then had the guy killed when the woman turned up pregnant, was later called a man after God’s own heart. How does that happen? Well, in Psalm 51, he comes clean with God. He asked God in the second verse of that song to wash him clean from his guilt. And God did!

He will do the same for you today. All you have to do is ask Him, and the rain of His mercy and forgiveness will wash the pollen of your guilt and regret away in an instant.

There are a few puddles on the driveway as I look out the window right now. Their edges are not tinted yellow. They are not ringed with remnants of pollen. They are clean and clear.

That’s how your life will be if you’ll ask the Lord to wash away your guilt today. That’s why Jesus came and died. It’s what God wants. He’s not trying to hold anything against you. He wants to wash it all away. Just ask.

I don’t know what you’re afraid of. I really am not crazy about heights. Or snakes. Or confined, closed-in, restrictive spaces.

Yeah, I know those may be a little silly. There are a lot more serious things in life we could be afraid of… like getting sick. Or getting fired. Or being left alone. For some people, it is facing something new. Or someone new.

The thing is, we don’t have to live in fear. All throughout Scripture, God instructs- and on occasion even commands- those who love Him and follow Him not to be afraid. But He goes a step further and tells them how they can achieve that fearless lifestyle. He tells them to remember that He will be with them. Remember that the God who spoke, and suddenly sun and moon and stars appeared, would be WITH them. Remember that the God who could destroy the whole earth and yet save each species to start over was WITH them. Remember that the God who could tame lions and part seas was going to be WITH them.

So David didn’t have to fear Goliath… because God was WITH him. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego didn’t have to be afraid of being thrown in the fiery furnace because there would be a fourth person in the fire WITH them… and He was God. Esther didn’t have to fear going in to see the king unannounced… because God was going in WITH her. Peter didn’t have to fear walking on the water in the middle of a storm… because Jesus was right there WITH him.

And the even better news is that you and I don’t have to live in fear as we face our challenges… because is WITH us also. You’re not walking into that job interview alone… He’s WITH you. You’re not alone in that MRI room… He’s WITH you. No matter what you’re facing, you do not have to fear because that same God who was there for all those people thousands of years ago is alive… and will be WITH you.

So, don’t be afraid today… for He is WITH you!

Our family loves board games and card games. Admittedly, I probably love them more than Angela or the boys, but we all enjoy a good round of Sorry, Clue, Jr., Mexican Train, or Farkle. We are all just a little competitive. We talk a little smack about how we’re going to trounce the others quickly. We cheer and laugh it up when someone smokes another player with a great move.

Our most recent addition to the cabinet full of games is Monopoly Deal. It’s the card version of the board game. It’s fun because it really involves luck-of-the-draw almost as much as it does some strategy.

The boys have gotten pretty good at it, but the other night Angela beat Austin soundly. When they finished, Austin said, “Aw, man! I forgot I had all these good cards I could have played. I bet I would have beat you if I hadn’t forgotten I had those.”

It’s true. In the heat of the game, he had laid aside some of his cards or stuck them behind other cards in his hand, and he forgot they were right there at his access for him to use to win. He could have defeated his opponent… and had bragging rights for at least a few minutes… IF he had remembered the good cards he had to play.

Here’s the thing… What was true for Austin in that card game is true for all of us in life. When we forget the good things we have at or disposal, we are more likely to lose out. When we forget that God has given us good promises and good gifts, we miss out on winning more times than not. We face an opponent who doesn’t care if we forget. In fact, he’d like for us to forget that we have access to provision, healing, grace, miracles, and so much more.

Choose today and everyday to go through “your hand,” and remember all the good things God has given you to make you successful in life and overcome the enemy of your soul. Look through Scripture, and remember that you have powerful promises. Look through your life, and remember that you have wonderful experiences when God came through for you before to show you that He is there for you now.

Don’t let those “good cards” stay tucked away and hidden. Play them early and often, every chance you get. In the end, you’ll come out the winner.

Let me encourage you to stop right here and right now to sort through “your cards.” Write down a list of three or four promises God has given you. Then write down three or four memories of times in life when He came through for you. Keep them with you, and as you go through the day, if you hit a point when your opponent seems to be getting ahead of you, pull out your good cards and play them one after another on him. He doesn’t stand a chance when you remember your “good cards!”

I was talking with my sister on the phone last night, and she reminded me of the ancient Japanese art of kintsugi. It is the technique of repairing broken pottery with gold or other precious metals. The result is an artistically beautiful piece which looks as if it were designed that way on purpose. The concept is that those things which damage us in life are not to be hidden, nor are we to be discarded when we can be repaired. And so the artist uses something of great value to accent the brokenness to make it beautiful.

That’s exactly what God will do with our broken lives when we give that brokenness to Him. God can make the most out of our mess… if we will let Him. Jesus said that one of the major components of His mission on earth was to “bind up the broken-hearted.” That is, He came to put back together that which had been broken. And when He puts it back together, He makes it beautiful.

I think Bill and Gloria Gaithersburg had it right with these lyrics…

Something beautiful

Something good

All my confusion

He understood

All I had to offer Him

Was brokenness and strife

But He made something beautiful

Out of my life

If you’re life seems broken into pieces today, give it to the one Artist who can add value to it as He puts all the pieces back together, and Who can turn that life into art which will amaze the world with the golden seams!

In the summer of 1978, just a few months before my eighth birthday, our family moved from Moorhead, Minnesota to Pasadena, TX. Just before we moved, a man in our church named Paul asked me if I was excited about moving to Texas. I told him I was, and he told me he hoped I enjoyed beans because everyone in Texas were cowboys who rode horses and ate beans for every meal. So you can imagine my surprise when we arrived in the industrial suburb of Houston and only two men in our church wore cowboy hats, there were cars everywhere but no horses, and I only ate beans when we went to the Mexican restaurant.

Now, to be fair, Paul was just razzing me. He didn’t realize I was completely convinced that what he said was the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help him, God. And I’ll admit, I was slightly disillusioned when I discovered we wouldn’t all ride horses everywhere we went. (Mom and Dad would occasionally make up for it by letting me ride the mechanical horse outside of K-Mart.) On the other hand, I was quite pleased to find that we didn’t have to eat beans at every meal.

All Paul’s joking aside, what we are convinced of affects the way we live. If you are convinced it is cold outside, you will probably dress in warmer clothes. If you are convinced you will like the movie you are going to see Friday night, you’ll probably have a greater sense of anticipation and go ready to enjoy it.

The same is true when it comes to what we are convinced of about ourselves and others. Henry Ford is often quoted as saying, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, either way you’re right.” In other words, what we are convinced of plays a huge role in how we go at life.

While Paul in Minnesota tried to convince me about life in Texas being all cowboys and beans, Paul the Apostle in prison for preaching about Jesus told his apprentice, Timothy, that he was convinced God is able. Able to do what? Able to work miracles… able to right wrongs… able to give him strength to face his challenges… able.

What are you convinced of about God today? Are you convinced He’s able? Do you believe He’s able to forgive your crimes against Him? Are you convinced He’s able to take away that cancer? Are you convinced He’s able to provide more money than you have month? Are you convinced He’s able to restore that relationship which seems beyond repair? Are you convinced He’s able to set you completely and permanently free from that addiction? Are you convinced He’s able to help you succeed at your work… accomplish your goals… fulfill your dreams?

What we are convinced of, we will expect. I am convinced that God is not only good, loving, and generous, but I am also convinced that He is able. He has all authority and ability. And because He is able, I can come to Him with great expectations.

This is not someone joking about cowboys and beans we’re talking about. This is so much more. You can count on God. Be convinced today… you won’t be disappointed!

Have you ever felt so alive that you wonder how you could call what you thought was living before actually alive? Lately, I feel like I have come into an epiphany as it relates to my faith. It’s as if I’m reading and hearing Scriptures for the first time which I’ve read and heard my entire life. When I talk with the Lord, it is with more confidence in Him… in His love… in who He has created me to be and in who He has made me into by adopting me as His son.

But to feel this alive comes at a price. It means facing challenges you never foresaw. It means being willing to look at life through a new set of lenses. It means having to… painfully… admit that I had not achieved the fullness God has for me.

This kind of newness of life comes from the passionate, and maybe sometimes even desperate, pursuit of knowing God even more closely, loving Him even more deeply, and serving Him even more sincerely. I may have more answers than I did before, but those answers have opened up a whole new world of questions. And with those questions, I find myself digging deeper into Scripture… making sure I find quality and quantity time to talk with the Lord so I can ask Him about the answers to these new questions… and more quickly moved to shower Him with thanks, gratitude, acknowledgment and adoration.

The result? I am alive!

No, all my challenges have not been overcome. All my problems have not been solved. All my issues have not been resolved. But most of those things are external. What is happening inside of me is overpowering all of that. And soon, if it hasn’t already begun to, it will impact and invade all of that external stuff.

I don’t know what kind of challenges or crises you are facing today, but you don’t have to face them with dullness and lifelessness inside you. Bring your real problems… those authentic questions you’ve been afraid to ask… your frustrations and limitations… bring them all to God. Ask Him to get involved, and you’ll find that He will. As He does, you will begin to experience life seeping back into you. That seeping will turn into a trickle… that turns into a flow… that turns into a flood! You’ll be more alive than you could have imagined before.

Jesus said that He came to give us a full life, an abundant life. Let’s not settle for less!