Going Higher

Note: Clearly Spiritual Post

Hang in there! Don’t give up! The Lord impressed on my heart this morning that someone needs to know He hasn’t let you down… He’s just setting you up for something greater!

You may feel like God has forgotten about you. You may think He isn’t doing anything about your situation. You may have even asked where He is and what He is up to.

So, He invited me to be a part of letting you know that He is at work on your situation. He loves you. You matter to Him. He values you. He is putting all the pieces together in the right order for you to be the best you can be.

I know it may be a struggle to hope or believe. But you ARE going higher.

Now help a brutha out… If this is for you and your situation today, would you comment, message or text me to affirm that I heard clearly from the Lord? I’ll pray for you.

Why, Lord?

Maybe you’ve been wanting to add children to your family and haven’t been able to… for a long time… even though you’ve asked the Lord to bless you with them. Been there, done that.

Or maybe you or a loved one is battling a health or emotional issue that you haven’t been healed of yet… even though you’ve asked the Lord to heal you.

Or perhaps you’ve asked the Lord to open a door for you to fulfill your dreams and purpose, but every door you knock on seems to be locked up tight… even though you know His Word says He’s guiding your steps and He has a great plan for you.

Could be that you long to be married, but even though you’ve asked the Lord to bring the right person into your life… it just hasn’t happened.

When we come to times like this, it’s easy to wonder, “Why?”

– Why won’t You answer my prayer the way I want, Lord?

– Why is it taking so long?

– Why can’t I seem to have the blessings others have?

– Why aren’t you coming to my rescue, Lord?

The good news is that you are not alone. The man who might have been the Lord’s best friend records a story about some other friends of Jesus… two sisters and their brother… Mary, Martha and Lazarus who encountered their own “Why, Lord” moment.

Lazarus got sick, and so his sisters did what lots of people had done… They asked Jesus to come heal him. They were good friends of Jesus. He loved them, and they loved Him. So they assumed He would come immediately when He heard Lazarus was sick and would heal him on the spot. Why wouldn’t He?

And soon that became their actual question… Why didn’t He? Jesus chose to wait two days before making the two-day walk to their home in Bethany. That’s four days. And by the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had already died. In Mary’s and Martha’s minds, Jesus was too late… and He didn’t have to be. He could have come earlier. He could have healed Lazarus. Why didn’t He come? Why didn’t He answer their request?

Why, Lord?

When they asked Him that question, His answer sounded odd… To give God more glory. What? How was their brother dying going to give God more game and recognition and praise? How would his death instead of his healing cause more people to think God was amazing?

Then Jesus showed them. He raised Lazarus from the dead. Their pain was eclipsed by their joy. And John records that MANY people believed in Jesus because of this miracle.

Then they understood. But they couldn’t understand till then. It didn’t make sense. It baffled the sisters that Jesus didn’t do what Jesus normally did in the way He normally did it. And their hearts were flooded with that one emotionally draining query… “Why, Lord?”

You probably know the weariness of that question. I know I do. And yet, each time, Jesus comes through and joy swallows up my weariness as it reveals the understanding that God’s plan is so much bigger and more amazing than I had the capacity to grasp before.

So, why do I still ask, “Why, Lord” anymore? Because in each new situation I face, it doesn’t seem like the situations before. And even though I know the Lord loves me… even though I know He is working everything together for my good… even though I know He has also come through for me before… this time seems different.

And still He loves me. Still He is gracious and kind to me. Still He is patient with me. He lets me ask “Why, Lord” all I want. Then… at the right time… in the right way… in the way that will cause the most people to be drawn to Him… He answers my prayer in a way I didn’t even know to ask Him.

The only reason I can imagine He hasn’t answered your request in the way you want… on the schedule you want… is the same reason He didn’t for Mary and Martha… God has a better plan. Just keep in mind how John laid it all out… Jesus loved Him, but He did it differently than they expected.

When you can’t understand why, you can at least rest in the truth that He loves you… and He has a better way.

Hang in there. He will show up and be there to go through it with you… all the way to the miraculous end!

The Drive-By

I slowed the minivan to a crawl as we passed the house… slow enough for PR31 to look up the driveway into the garage and case the situation. “Nope, doesn’t look like there’s much there. Let’s go to the next one.” So, we did the drive-by, and headed for our next target.

A couple neighborhoods down the road from us a mile or two have an annual neighborhood-wide garage sale. This year, about 15-20 homes participated in the sale. It was a last-minute decision for us to try to hit some of the sales. The weather was cooler than normal, and there had been a few sprinkles of rain that morning. We didn’t get out till about 10:00am, which is hours too late to get the good stuff at a garage sale, but a great time to slip up on someone ready to give up and get rid of stuff at rock bottom prices. And since we had to go into town to run a few errands anyway, we figured we would have some fun and hit some sales.

The problem was that the rain had caused most of the families to move all the items they were selling into their garages. Now, you would probably think that this is no big deal. But you would be wrong. Psychologically, in my humble opinion as a garage sale expert, most people would prefer a “yard sale” to a “garage sale.” We want to be able to pull up near your house, cast a glance up the driveway, and determine from the comfort of our own vehicle if you have anything that looks of value enough for us to stop, park the vehicle, unbuckle, get out of the vehicle and walk the steps that it would take to get us to the desirable items in question. If we can’t see the merchandise available… or if it just looks like a bunch of clothes and videotapes instead of tools, electronics, sports gear, furniture and antiques… we will probably do “the drive-by.”

Now, to be fair here, we could have cost ourselves several great deals on some really cool stuff that Saturday… just because we weren’t willing to stop long enough to invest some time and interest looking into what people had to offer. It could absolutely have been our loss. People could have had the very things we were looking for, but we will never know because we did “the drive-by.”

Here’s the thing, in life lots of people do the exact same thing… just with people instead of garage sales. We look at someone and try to quickly evaluate whether or not we want to take the time and effort required to invest in a relationship. And while quality relationships should be more about what we can offer than what we can get from the other person, too often we do “the drive-by” because we don’t think there is anything positive in that person that is worth us stopping.

Look, sometimes we strike out at a garage sale… or with a person when we stop and “take a chance.” But sometimes we get surprised with a great bargain for a minor investment of ourselves.

Jesus was no “drive-by” kind of guy. He would stop at every person possible to see if He could connect with them, offer them love… or healing… or hope. And so many times He was rewarded by a new-found follower or friend. Sure, He struck out with some of His stops, but that didn’t cause Him to shift into “drive-by” mode. He just kept stopping and checking to see the value in people.

Sadly, too often I have been in “drive-by” mode with people. I’m sure I’ve missed out on some great friendships simply because I didn’t stop to see the value in those people. I’m not proud of it… just stating a sad fact. But I don’t want to live like that. I want to be like Jesus… stopping at every person… looking them square in the eyes… smiling… and seeing their value. I want to make it home to Heaven at the end of this life and show the Lord all the great finds I came across during my time on this planet.

So, if you wanna “drive-by” a garage sale, that’s one thing, but let’s all strive to stop when it comes to people!

For All My Friends Who…

It seems like I have so many friends who are struggling and battling tough situations in life right now. Some have lost a marriage… others a ministry… still others their health. Some long to see a hurt healed… some long to hold their own baby… some long for companionship. And it breaks my heart.

So for all my friends who are suffering and struggling tonight, know this…

1) You are not alone. Jesus said He would never leave us nor forsake us. He is walking through this tough time with you.

2) You will win if you stick with Jesus. He said that we would have trouble in this world, but we should be of good cheer because He has overcome the world. He knows what it takes to come out on top, and He will help you do exactly that.

3) I love you… I am in your corner… and I am praying for those of you who have told me about your situations. I’m not Jesus. I know I don’t have all the answers. I know I can’t fix most of your issues. But I can be your friend. And I can encourage you. And I can let you know that, not only is Jesus with you, I am with you also. My heart aches with yours, and so I am keeping your need in front of the Lord on a regular basis.

Some of this sounds so cheesy and trite. I promise that I don’t mean for it to be that way. I mean it from my heart. And I hope you are encouraged by these reminders!

Always Valuable

If you are borrowing money, you know that the interest rate goes up and down multiple times even in one day.  If you are blessed enough to have money invested in the stock market, you know that the market goes up and down all the time and affects the value of your portfolio.  Real estate usually goes up in value, but can decrease in value.  Stores raise and lower prices. Amazon and eBay items can shift in value based on supply and demand.

The problem with living in a culture in which value increases and decreases all the time is that we believe our value does the same.  We think that if we work hard enough or hit our goals, then our value goes up.  And conversely, we tend to believe that if we fail or falter our value goes down.  Yet this is completely false.

Our value never changes… at least not with God. Regardless of whether others give us raises or divorce us, our value never decreases with God.  When we get it right, He doesn’t love us and value us more.  He couldn’t possibly love us any more than He already does.  And when we totally blow it, He doesn’t love us or value us any less.  His nature and eternal choice to value us immensely cannot be decreased by any market force around us or careless decision on our part.

The price of gold may rise and fall.  The stock market may soar or crash.  Oil may hit an all-time high or bottom out.  But your value remains constant… stable… enduring.  God has set your value, and He refuses to change it.  You are always the apple of His eye.  You are always worth Him sending His Son to be executed for your crimes against Him.  You are always worth Him preparing a place where He could spend eternity with you.

So whatever name that person called you… whatever promotion you got or didn’t get… whatever type of home you live in or vehicle you drive… whatever level of education you have achieved… whatever titles you have or don’t have… you are forever unchangingly & incredibly valuable!  Never let anyone tell you anything different!!!

Render Them Shameless

When I was a teenager, my parents were not only the lead pastors of a church, but my Dad helped oversee a group of about 25 churches in our fellowship’s network.  It was part of his role to help churches and ministers through challenges they might face.  He had a tough job one year in particular when five ministers in our group made poor choices which caused them to lose their credentials and ministries temporarily.  One story from that year sticks out vividly in my mind because of the lesson I learned from one minister’s journey. In fact, I would say it has partly shaped who I am as a person and minister today.

I had gone to bed after the 10pm news had gone off, but I was awakened not long after going to sleep by a sickening feeling in my stomach.  Whatever I had eaten had not agreed with me, and it wanted out.  I jumped out of bed and crossed the hall to the bathroom.  How can I say this delicately…  I had barely knelt at the altar of the porcelain god when my offering came forth.

Mom was out of town for some reason, and so I hollered for Dad… because I don’t do sick alone.  He quickly came to my rescue with a wet rag, but almost as soon as he had come to help me, our doorbell rang.  I wondered out loud who it might be, and he informed me that a minister in our area was coming over to talk about something serious.  Dad asked if I was going to be okay by myself, and let me know that he would come back to check on me.  By that time, I had gotten rid of whatever was ailing me, and so I told him to go on because I’d be fine.  With that, he left to answer the door, and I cleaned up and went back to bed.

True to his word, Dad came and checked on me after the man and his wife left.  When I asked what it was all about, he told me to go on to sleep and we could talk about it the next morning.

I slept, the sun rose, and the next morning I asked again.  This time Dad shared the sad news that the man had made a series of bad choices which could have cost him his family and his opportunity to minister.  But the man was contrite, and his family was gracious.  For things to be restored, the man would have to step away from the pulpit for a year, go through counseling to help heal his marriage, have regular accountability meetings to chart his progress of being restored to ministry, and attend a different church… our church.  In fact, Dad said the couple would begin attending our church that very next Sunday.

I said, “Dad, what do I say when I see them Sunday?  How am I supposed to treat them?”

I don’t think I’ll ever forget my Dad’s words to me that day.  They have shaped my heart for people from that moment forward.  He said, “Well, Allen, they’re going to be a part of our church.  They’re our friends.  What do you say to other people at our church who are our friends? How do you treat everyone else at our church?  What do you do when you see them?”

I replied something like, “I smile, shake their hand or hug them, and let them know I’m glad to see them.”

To which Dad gently said, “Then that’s how you treat these people.  They don’t have a lot of friends right now who will just love them and welcome them.  That’s what they need.  They’re already ashamed about what happened.  They need someone to love them.”

In that moment… and in the moments that followed beginning with that first Sunday when I smiled at this couple, hugged them, and welcomed them as a part of our church family… I learned that real love renders people shameless. That’s what God does with each of us… He loves away our shame.  He knows that we already feel badly enough about blowing it in life.  He knows that we don’t need to be reminded of how imperfect we are.

1 John 4:18 tells us that “perfect love expels all fear.”  Isn’t that what shame is… fear that others will see our junk and realize we don’t have it all together? Fear that people wouldn’t accept us if they knew what we are really like, or if they knew what we have done?  But love overpowers fear, kicks it out & renders us shameless.

That couple walked the year-long journey back into ministry while attending our church.  It was a thing of beauty to see love conquer shame, and I’ve never forgotten it.

So, let me encourage you today to love people who don’t deserve it.  Let your love prove to them that they don’t have to fear what you will think about them or say to them.  Let your love render them shameless, and watch in amazement as they transform before your very eyes into all they can become.

Likes, Shares, Comments And Value

This is my “happy family” pic…


This is my “cute kids” pic…

This is my “yummy food my wife makes” pic…


This is my “we only do fun things” pic…


I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Now, if you’ve read this blog at all, you know that my life purpose is “to love and encourage, offering grace and hope.”  You know that I write to build people up, not tear them down.  So, please don’t misunderstand what I’m about to write…

Most of us only post the good stuff about our lives online.  Our social media posts would make people think we never have a problem.  And the more likes… or hearts… or comments… or shares… or retweets we get, the more valued and validated we feel about ourselves.

Truth be told, the mechanics of this blog give me analytics to help me which posts read more… or liked more.. or commented on more.  If I’m not careful, it can turn into one more way for me to judge myself and my abilities.

But when we live our lives based on whether people think we are cute… or amazing… or talented… or lucky, our emotions are going to end up all over the place.  Happy birthday greetings on Facebook weren’t quite what they were last year.  Sad face emoji.  Less people shared that video. Cry face emoji.  Wait, more people than ever read this post! Big smile, thumb up and fist bump emoji.

Yet our value far exceeds what our peers… or our bosses… or our followers… or our subscribers tell us.  We have inherent value placed on us by Someone who never changes His opinion of us. God gave us value when He made each of us unique and special.  He determined that the world would need someone like you.  And He placed even more value on each of us when He gave His only Son to come take our punishment so that we could be freely adopted into His family.

And the great thing about this value is that it doesn’t change.  It doesn’t change when I do something spectacular (and therefore post-worthy).  It doesn’t change when I fail as a partner… or lose a subscriber… or burn the grilled-cheese sandwich… again.  The value God gives each of us supersedes all our ups and downs.

So let me encourage you today to not let how your day goes be determined by what someone says or doesn’t say about you… by how many or  few people liked your “cute puppy pic”… by shares or comments or follows or hearts.  Find your value in the One whose estimation of you has never changed… and never will!