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!”

There may not be a more guttural display of manly competitiveness than that of arm wrestling. Pit two men against each other in a test of sheer arm strength till veins bulge in their foreheads and necks, and people will gather around to watch. Pit me against either of our sons, Alex or Austin, and no one would pay the price of admission.

Why? Because it’s no contest. Their bodies have not yet developed muscles to the point whereby they would have enough strength to defeat me. Simply put, I would win every time.

I remember challenging my parents to arm wrestling when I was younger and winning many times, only to realize in later years that it is because they were letting me win. I was so disappointed to discover that I wasn’t as strong as I had thought.

You know, the enemy of our souls is a lot like a little kid arm wrestling their parent. That kid doesn’t stand a chance unless he is allowed to win by the parent. The kid would lose every time. And the truth is, Scripture tells us that “He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.” In other words, because God lives in me, when the devil challenges me, I can win every time. He’s just out-powered. It’s no contest. The only way the devil can win when he comes against me is if I let him win. But as long as I oppose him… as long as I put up any resistance at all… he simply cannot overcome it.

There is this myth which floats about mankind which says what is going on in the spiritual is an epic battle between good and evil… that God and the devil are equal opposites, and we just have to wait and see who will win. That is misguided thinking. The angel who rebelled against God and became who we know as the devil was a creation of God who was instantly defeated the moment he opposed God, and he has been living a defeated existence ever since. There is absolutely no comparison or competition.

And since the Creator of the Universe lives in those of us who have accepted Him, we have that power in us. This means the devil is no competition if we will simply offer resistance.

I don’t know how he has flexed his wicked muscles in front of you today, or how he has taunted you to sit down at the table and grasp hands, but when he says go, just hold tight… give him a wink… and then slam his wrist through the table… because he doesn’t stand a chance of winning if you oppose him with the One who is greater living in you.

So get out this week and arm wrestle the devil if you must. Just remember… you can’t lose as long as you offer resistance!

I love watching NFL games! Obviously, as a New Orleans Saints fan, I’m quite captivated as we come to the end of the season, and my team is in the playoffs. But I follow the game year-round, and I have been reflecting this week- as so many teams whose seasons have ended are letting coaches go and looking toward the next draft- about what each change a team makes really means.

I recall a statement by Adam Capland which I heard on an NFL radio show back in the preseason. He said, “Transactions always tell a story.” In other words, when teams trade, cut or hire, they express who and what they value. For example, just last week, a team in the playoffs hired a kick-off specialist because they didn’t feel like their regular place kicker could put the ball in the end zone on kick-offs. Simply hiring that other kicker meant they didn’t trust their own kicker to do his job. They didn’t value him or his abilities enough to believe in him.

Now, we can berate those team tycoons for the way they cut head coaches from the team coldly after several losses, or move on to the up and coming rookie because the crowd is tired of the veteran who is no longer in his prime. But the truth is that our transactions always tell a story as well. What we spend our money and time on speaks to what is important to us personally.

Each day, we have the opportunity to place value on people, to express how much they matter to us and to God. Simply saying yes to spending time with someone can speak volumes to them about how special and wonderful they are. Sometimes a small gift expresses immense love or appreciation. Jesus said that wherever our treasure is, there our heart will be also. Our transactions always tell a story.

It’s true. We give our time, attention and money to those whom we value most. Andy Stanley has said, “Saying ‘yes’ to one thing means saying ‘no’ to something else.” We only have so much of each to give, and so we prioritize. Who and what we love least will get cut or traded for who or what we love more or most.

Only people will last for eternity. People should always trump stuff. I know we can’t give everyone our undivided time and attention. Sometimes the money and the time truly aren’t available for everyone in your life. I’m not suggesting that you can give the best of yourself to all those to whom you want to give it. But maybe we could turn off the TV or put away the phones little more, and play a game with our kids. Maybe we could skip the meal at the restaurant and give to a friend in need. Maybe we could give up those few extra minutes of sleep to get up and spend some time with the Lord, reading His Word and talking with Him.

Transactions always tell a story. How has the story of your life read up to this point? Are you pleased with the story so far, or do you wish you could erase some of the story and re-write it? Well, we can’t re-write the past, but the good news is that the next chapter’s pages are blank. We have the opportunity today to begin writing the story in a way that tells the story our hearts longs to tell… Let’s tell a great story!

Yesterday, a computer game the boys play had an update, and they ended with all these extra powers and abilities that they couldn’t get before. Austin tried to explain it to us, but it was like he was speaking a foreign language. He kept going on about how each one could do these new and wonderful things they couldn’t do before. He said some of them were even “overpowered.” As he went on talking about how he just couldn’t believe how amazing this update was, he blurted out, “I’m overpowered… with joy!”

You know, that’s what joy does for us. It strengthens us. It powers us up. It gives us what we need and more to be able to face the day and win. Nehemiah told God’s people in his time that God set aside days on their calendar when they should be celebrate. In some ways, they felt bad to celebrate. They realized they didn’t live perfect lives. They knew the challenges they faced. They weren’t even sure they had the emotional strength- and therefore the physical strength- to celebrate. Nehemiah went on to tell them that the joy of the Lord would be their strength.

God doesn’t intend for us to live down in the mully-grubs. He wants us to live life to the fullest. But sometimes we check our bank account, and we don’t think we have the strength to celebrate. Or we check the doctor’s report, and we don’t think we have the strength to celebrate. We check our social media feed, and we don’t think we have the strength to celebrate.

Maybe today, you need to let the joy of the Lord be your strength. If you’ll let Him fill you up inside, you can live your life “overpowered with joy!”

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!