Convinced

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!

Wrong Place, Right Time

As I walked across the parking lot and started to get into my vehicle after having preached in the Sunday morning service at a church in Texas recently, I noticed these little flowers growing in the midst of nothing but rocks.  No grass.  No other plants.  They looked so out of place.  But there they were… just growing and beaming brightly.  They brightened my day because they reminded me that God can cause us to flourish regardless of our situation.

I’m reminded of Isaiah 35 as I think of them today.  It is a chapter of hope.  It speaks of how God can bless when and where He chooses, regardless of how bleak the situation appears.

Today, you may be going through a difficult time.  Perhaps your health is under attack, like a couple friends of ours are right now.  Or maybe you’re facing some financial challenges that have your back against a wall like another person I know.  Or maybe you’re going through a drought in the area of friendships.

Know this… God doesn’t need your situation to be perfect… or optimal… or favorable… or even okay… to cause your life to blossom right now!  He can cause life to spring out of death.  He can cause health to spring out of sickness.  He can cause abundance to spring out of lack.  He can cause companionship to spring out of loneliness.

What looks impossible to you is possible with Him.  You may think you’re in the wrong place, but don’t worry because at the right time God can cause your life to push up through those desert rocks and bud… and bloom… and blossom into fullness!

Why not take some time to look up the 35th chapter of Isaiah today, and find encouragement there?  Even if you are not a believer in Christ yet, that chapter is full of the kind of hope I’ve found in knowing Christ personally and following Him.  I believe that if you’ll open your heart to Him, you’ll find that same hope.

Just One Drop?

I grew up in a suburb of Houston, TX.  I still have family there.  My wife has family in the Houston area.  I have lot of friends across South Texas.  And what Harvey has done to their homes and churches and businesses… is heartbreaking.

One friend shared an article from the Washington Post about how many trillions of gallons of water have rained down on the Houston area as part of the storm.  The numbers are staggering, mind-boggling.  And there could be more, though I pray there is not.

And I am overjoyed to see people begin to band together to begin the rescue and recovery effort. I encourage everyone who can to give… to go serve, helping to clean up and restore… to encourage those who are living through this disaster that they are going to be alright.

Some people feel like there is no use for them to try to help in such a massive situation because they feel like they can do so very little.  But something leapt out to me as I thought about that this morning… This crazy big storm was made up of individual drops of rain all coming together at the same time and the same place to make a significant impact.  And while those bazillion drops of rain created this disaster, our “drops” of love, hope, generosity and service could add up together to make a positive impact.

Your one “drop” matters.  Don’t withhold it because it seems small.  Together, all of us can do something to make a difference!

A Line In The Sand

I may have been born in Florida and spent some years in Minnesota, but a good portion of my childhood, all my teens, and half my twenties were spent in Texas.  The old bumper sticker reads, “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got there as quickly as I could.”

Texans are a proud bunch, and rightly so. The Republic of Texas has a captivating history. Every student in every school across the state has Texas’ history drilled into them till it almost becomes part of who they are.  Truth be told, there are some powerful lessons to be learned from its rich history.

For example, the rag-tag Texas army was holed-up in the Spanish mission in San Antonio commonly referred to now as “The Alamo.”  Mexican general Santa Anna and approximately 5,000 troops surrounded them. The Texan leadership had sent a request to General Sam Houston for reinforcements, but none were able to come.

When Colonel William Barrett Travis realized this, he made a decision in his own mind that this is where he would make his final stand.  Travis did not feel right about making the others stay and fight to the death, so he made it optional.  He gathered the entire group, gave a speech about their impending peril and the role they could play in giving time for the rest of the Texan army to prepare to win, then drew his sword, laid its tip on the sandy ground and dragged it several feet, leaving a line in its wake. He told the soldiers that they could leave now and no one would think any less of them, but if they chose to stay, there would be no looking back. Only one man and some of the women and children left that night.  The rest stepped across the line and so sealed their fate… and their place in history.

The miniature Texan force was ultimately overwhelmed 13 days later by General Santa Anna’s juggernaut.  But they delayed his progress long enough to make victory for the rest of the Texans possible shortly thereafter… in the town where I grew up.  Their battle, though it appeared to be a loss, set up a victory.

I believe that any person who is going to do something significant in life faces “line in the sand” moments… those moments when they make a choice to go forward and not look back.  They choose to get married… till death do us part.  They choose to be parents… for the rest of their lives.  They choose one major in college or one job instead of others… and lock themselves into a career path over the next forty to fifty years.  They choose to follow Jesus… and eternity redirects their journey from that day forward.

The Apostle Paul had such an experience with Jesus.  The road just outside Damascus was his line in the sand.  Later, in his letter to his friends in the church at Philippi, Paul says that he doesn’t have everything figured out but he has done one thing… focused on forgetting the past and looking forward to the future.  In other words, he has stepped across the line in the sand. He has defined what it means to follow Jesus, and he is inviting others to join him.

If you and I are going to do something of significance in this life, we will face these “line in the sand” moments.  Let’s choose to step across those lines into greatness!  Let’s not look back!  Like Colonel William Barrett Travis and the Apostle Paul… let’s forge into the unknown with only a knowing that what may come may be challenging, but it will also be worthwhile… and we will never be forgotten for our commitment!

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