The smells of life. They are all around us. Some good, some not so good. Smelling the savory smell of good food, flowers in a garden, or the scent of a candle in a store or home, immediately grabs our attention. There are smells we totally miss, and I was unaware I was missing them until we got our little convertible. Now it’s one of our favorite things about our little car. Driving along we will occasionally get a whiff of freshly cut grass, a backyard fire, a barbecue, or the fragrance of a flowering tree. It immediately arrests our attention and stops the conversation; all we want to do is take in the scent. Smells can take us back to special moments in our lives or days gone by. Almost every smell has a story. Imagine smelling the fragrance of the perfume that Mary poured on Jesus’ feet. A stale old room filled with sweaty people is suddenly overwhelmed by an aroma that is pleasant and refreshing. Even if you missed the moment when she anointed his feet, you were instantly aware by the fragrant change that now fills the room. I would imagine that from that day forward, any time anyone caught a scent of that amazing moment, instantly had a flashback to Mary’s amazing act. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:15, “we are the sweet smell of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are being lost.” Whether we realize it or not, each day we put off a scent, a smell of God’s glory or the smell of this world. One is pleasant and refreshing, the other often old and unpleasing. Why do we need a regular time of prayer? It’s where we get the anointing that gives us the right scent. Prayer ensures that our family, friends, and the world we walk in gets the right whiff.
This year I have a completely different take on Father’s Day. I’ve always celebrated my dad and how amazing he is. But this year I’ve watched my husband take on the role of “father” and it’s been such an amazing thing to watch. The first thing that I noticed was when he took on the role of protector. Newborn babies can’t do much to defend or protect themselves, so I think naturally dads take on this role. From the moment we pulled out of the hospital, he tried to avoid every pothole and waited until there was a gap the size of Texas to pull out in front of a car. I’ve always seen the same thing from my dad. I remember the day he tried to teach me how to ride a bike and how protective he was. I was terrified, but there was no way he was going to let me fall. He made sure I knew how the brakes worked and told me that I didn’t have to go fast. I just had to try. He was going to protect me, even if it meant he might get hurt. The same thing is true of God. He is our greatest protector. He sees all things and knows all things. He will give us all the grace we need and will even take the fall with us when we mess up. In Psalm 3:3 it says just that “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” This Father’s Day be thankful for your protectors and a God who’s got you back.
Daughter of Pastor Jon
Wife to Jacob and Mother to Carter
Our world rewards conformity. Gordon MacKenzie worked for Hallmark Cards; on the side he did creative workshops with kids. After a couple of years, he began conducting a test on students. The results were amazing. When first grade students were asked who among them were artist, nearly the entire class raised their hands. The question was asked again when the students were in second and third grades. By second grade only half the kids raised their hands, and only one-third of third graders did. By the time they were asked in sixth grade, only one or two kids saw themselves as artist. Where did their passion go? What happened to their artistic beliefs? His premise. Education and culture were killing imagination; there seemed to be an intentional drive to push people toward “normal.” Today conformity is the norm. We’re taught everyone drinks, has premarital relationships, and supports unbiblical lifestyles. These lies of conformity are not new, in fact, they go back to the time of Christ. If you were religious, you conformed. Don’t eat this, don’t go there, wear this, act this way… 613 rules! Jesus went against the grain; He was the definition of counterculture. If we are to come alive and really live, we must invite and encourage one another to live spiritually bold. If I could relive on facet of my life, I would have stopped trying to please others and live up to their expectations early on. I would have accommodated the Spirit earlier and leaned into its power more intently instead of trying to conform to religious traditions. Living God’s dream means allowing the internal presence of the Spirit to have more power and influence than the external pressure of those who want to drive us into religious conformity. Romans 12 says it well, don’t conformed to this world but be transformed. How? Intensely pursue and yield to God’s Spirit!
Life’s vision involves three-segments. First, touch God every day. It may change daily, but includes Bible reading, prayer, worship, and devotion. Another segment of our vision is being involved in something that outlives you. A personal ministry, project, or a financial foundation; anything that will leave an imprint on the next generation. A final segment involves intentionally impacting someone’s life every day. That doesn’t mean grabbing a bull horn or bashing them with the Bible. It means being purposeful about making a positive impact on someone daily. Lately the Spirit has been prompting me to be more active in this area. So, I’ve been intentional. A cashier caught my attention with his amazing spirit and attitude, so I gave him a compliment. He lit up like the fourth of July, you would have thought I had given him a hundred-dollar bill. Making a run to the grocery, a group of elementary kids walking to a local park for end of the year festivities, spotted our little red car. They started giving us the “18-wheeler blow the horn motion.” We gave them a beep, beep, smiled, waved and instantly the entire group exploded into laughter and cheers as we drove off. Finally, as we were walking through a park, I noticed a couple meandering slowly up ahead of us. Their spirit seemed heavy, so as we passed, I gave them a smile, “a good morning,” and instantly their countenance changed. The elderly lady said, “yes, it is” and before I knew it, I blurted out the first stanza of Psalm 118:24, “this is the day,” she responded with, “that the Lord has made, and I said, “I will rejoice,” and she completed it with, “and be glad in it.” We left them laughing and with a memory for the day. My point? Impacting others is simple, easy, and cost nothing. Start being intentional about impacting a world that is hopeless, hurting, and broken. Let your positive actions be the conversation at their dinner table.
Memorial Day. Its purpose wasn’t for people to picnic and party, but to pause and reflect on who we are, where we came from, and how it happened. Those reflections are an assortment of good and bad events. We remember those who died for our freedom and celebrate the liberties that makes this a great country. It’s not a unique celebration, in fact, it’s one that has its foundation in the Bible. Joshua’s book gives us insight into a moment when God opens the Jordon River and Israel walks through it on dry ground. It’s a repeat of what Moses and their ancestry had experienced forty years earlier. As the last man walks out of the dry riverbed Joshua orders the leaders of each tribe to go back into the river and get one large stone. After the stones are gathered, they are instructed to stack them in a fashion that forms a memorial. Why? So that generations later, after this miraculous moment is but a shadow, they will remember what God had done. I’m saddened by what has happened to many of the memorials in our country over the past few years, not because I glory in the abuse or condone the actions of men, but because without those memorials we won’t remember our past. Today we’re not able to take our children to memorials of past failures and teach them about our nation’s mistakes. When memorials are torn down societies tends to repeat their actions because they have no reminder of the past. Why did Israel turn away from God in Judges, just one book later? Could it be because someone forgot to protect the memorials, forgot to take their children to them, and forgot to teach them about God’s miraculously ability to deliver? I encourage you to build memorials in your family. Remind them often of how great God is and what an important role he has played in your successes.
Spring. It is officially here. If you question it, go to any garden shop. Doesn’t matter if it’s Lowes, Home Depot, or a local nursery, you will be greeted by crowds. All ages and ethnicities with all varieties of plants and flowers in their carts. Drive through any neighborhood and you will see flowerpots and yards filled with an assortment of color: geraniums, petunias, and impatiens. Whether those who are planting realize it or not, they are planting things that require maintenance. If plants are to grow full and lush, they’re going to require fertilizer. Flowers will require getting up early or staying out late for watering. Fail to be disciplined and quickly your flowers and plants will wither and die. As spring turns to summer, other plants begin to appear, ones you did not purchase or plant. Weeds! They require no fertilizer or water, they just grow, grow, and grow. Getting rid of them will require Roundup, and lots of it. A gardener is always at war with weeds. There is so much God in gardening. Think about it, having a healthy and fruitful spiritual life takes work. There must be consistent watering of our hearts and spirits with prayer. We must fertilize our mind and soul with the sounds of worship. We hit the house of God so our lives can be strengthened by His Word and community. Get out of the routine and watch how quickly your spirit can become bitter or sour and heart callused and cold. Then, if the lack of spiritual discipline doesn’t get us, the weeds of sin begin growing. Jealousy drops seeds in our heart, lust gets in our eye, and within days, we’re inundated by the worldly weeds. Today’s challenge. As you work on your yard, remember your heart is a garden as well. Water, feed, and prune regularly!
I’m a noticer. It doesn’t matter where I’m at or what I’m doing, I’m observing. It’s one of my ways of learning. This particular day found me on an interstate I had not been on before. The landscape is lush with trees and rolling terrain. It’s here I notice an Amish farmer plowing his field. He’s standing on a plow tied to four oxen. I marvel as I witness old life in modern times. As I’m watching, I notice power lines above him, massive lines, maybe 50 feet tall. These lines aren’t carrying energy to homes, they’re transporting power to cities. They are just above him to the east. I also catch a glimpse of a home, I presume is his, because there are no power lines running to it. As the moment recedes into my rear-view mirror, my thoughts reflect on his life, he’s so close to so much power, yet chooses to live without it. What an example of some Christians. Jesus said, “you shall receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you (Acts 1:8), yet how many live without tapping into the power. How many plow through life with an old-world mentality, seeking peace, joy, and happiness in worldly treasures? We live with access to God’s power, yet often choose to live off the grid, trying to succeed without His life changing influence. How much power is just above us? Enough that would cause an entire city to say, “these are they that have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6), and enough to cause people to lay the sick in the street that the shadow of Simon Peter might bring healing (Acts 5:15). God’s power, it’s not a matter of if He has it, but if we will tap into it. We have a choice, plow on our own or pray for His power.
Motherhood. It’s an act of love and sacrifice. It’s nine months of pregnancy and a lifetime of giving. A mom never stops caring, nor do they ever stop worrying. Motherhood starts with diapers, moves to potty training, and soon it seems as they are the ones who can do anything and everything. When their children go to school, they become students again, assisting them in every tough subject. Moms become doctors and psychologist, fixing everything from bruises to broken hearts. As expectant moms, many don’t realize that their highest calling is being the taxicab driver, going to every game, boy or girl scout meeting, and recital and concert. The feelings a mom has the first day their child hops on a school bus and the first day they drive away on their own, are the same, eyes filled with tears and a heart that is swollen as their “baby” moves into a new stage of life. When they go off to college or walk down an isle in marriage, the same feelings come, eyes once again filled with tears, but this time, a heart filled with pride. The Christian mom takes love to another level, instilling values, morals, and Godly principles. She covers her kids daily in prayer, putting a lifetime of protection over their lives, one day at a time. Someone once said, if you take the mother out of the home you can destroy the fabric of America. Moms are the glue to families, homes, and the future. I am only a pastor, but in my humble estimation, there is no greater position a woman can hold than mom. To every mom, thank you for your service, sacrifice, and love. Thank you for surrendering your passions and dreams. Thank you for creating the future by making your children, family, and home your top priority. Today, and every day, we honor and marvel at your amazing lives.
It all started early Monday morning. A thump on our window, and then another, and then another. . . and it has continued all week. What is it? One small yellow finch. I am assuming it’s the same one, surely there’s not another that wants to spend its entire day crashing its head into our sliding glass window. At this moment, as I am writing, I’m safe to say he (or she) is averaging a crash about every ten seconds. Occasionally, it stops, shakes itself, inspects its feathers, and begins again. It seems absurd, and I suppose at some point it will stop, but for now, “bird tv” is a part of our daily entertainment. We’ve scared it off a few times, but it returns, and continues its relentless attack on our glass. I would love to have a conversation with it about its actions and purpose, but obviously I don’t speak bird, and I’m not really sure it would accomplish anything. Reminds me of how we sometimes handle stress, anxiety, and worry. Like the bird, no matter how much sleep we lose, how much time we spend in a mental round-about, we just end up burning energy and wasting time, and accomplishing nothing. In Matthew 6:27 Jesus puts it bluntly when He says, “who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” What are we to do? We basically have three options. First, living like the yellow finch who is assaulting our window; spend your days stressing, worrying, using a lot of energy, and accomplishing nothing. Second, trust God. David gives us valuable wisdom in Proverbs 3:5 when he says, “trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” Finally, relax! There is not one thing that overwhelms God, and if He’s not overwhelmed, then give it your best effort to not let issues trouble you either.
Spring amazes me with its stunning spender of yellow, pink, purple and white colors. It’s the moment God brightens the earth with yet another masterpiece of His glorious beauty. Spring air, accompanied by rain, produces bright green hues everywhere which provides the perfect backdrop for His kaleidoscope of color. With sunlight making its way through the cloud covering, I stand in awe of the miraculous creation of color God makes for us. He thinks out every process of this majestic canvas and He does this simply for us to enjoy. Winter can be cold and barren, bitter and stagnant. And then, Spring, with its glorious colors, reminds us of His desire to make things new and fresh. Often Spring is a time when God starts something fresh and new in us. It’s a time of new beginnings. As you venture through this Spring, allow God to form something miraculous in your life. Take the time to take in the beauty around you. Let Spring remind us that we too are a canvas of God, and we have the potential to produce beauty and growth. Growth that can change the world for someone else needing hope. Before you know it, these incredible colors will be gone. The blooms will blow away and new growth will turn to leaves. So, enjoy Spring, the time for growth and new beginnings, and ask God to begin something new and beautiful in you!
An obvious fact. The less light the more darkness. Turn off the lights in a windowless room and darkness dominates. One of the fascinating details the gospel authors mention is as Jesus is dying on the cross the sky grew dark. When the earthly presence of God went out (“I am the light of the world.” John 8:12), darkness rushed in. It’s important to note what happened during those three hours, because I believe there is a spiritual principle. We wonder why there is such darkness in the earth today, may I suggest that God’s light, the church has become dimmer. While there are more mega-churches, there are fewer people attending than ever. In 1950 nearly 70% of Americans attended church regularly, in 2007 that number had dwindled to 18%, and reports are that nearly 1/3 of those who were faithful to church before COVID have not returned. Jim Cymbala, pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York City, says it is his belief that the actual number of faithful and active Christians in America is less than 5%. Not only did Jesus say that He was the light of the world, but that we, the followers of Christ, “were the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14). Why the darkness? Why the hate? Why such an aggression of immorality? Why does it seem no one has the answer for all that ills our world? As a pastor who trusts God’s Word, I believe we are seeing the effect of the absence of light. Jesus asked in Luke 18:8, “when the son of man comes, will He find faith,” and the author of Hebrews warns, “let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer.” Easter 2022. Make a decision to make God’s house a life priority.
The Triumphal Entry. It wasn’t an event; it was a statement. It was premeditated and calculated. Jesus knew exactly what He was doing. He knew His friends and foes. He knew what the day, Palm Sunday, would hold and He knew what the week would hold. Riding into Jerusalem on a colt was no accident, it was a declaration; to every Pharisee and religious leader Jesus was saying, I am in control. To every dark and demonic Spirit, He’s saying I am not afraid. It’s not a statement for the week, but a proclamation for eternity. The week would start with a Triumphal Entry and crowds crying, “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” and would end with crowds crying “crucify Him.” He doesn’t become enamored by the accolades nor discouraged by the jeers. He knew the moment was bigger than a parade or a cross, this was about who controls eternity. It’s about who would have power over death, hell, and the grave. It’s about sickness having dominance and darkness dominating the world. When the week comes to an end and He says, “it is finished,” He is not talking about His life, but the question of who was in control. As He breathes His last breath, He knows I am forever in control of eternity. Sin, sickness, disease, and death are now powerless. Satan, his schemes, and plans are forever thwarted. All things are subject to Him. The Triumphal Entry was an everlasting statement that said, I control everything, including my death. A good thing to know. Whether it’s in a court room or hospital room. Whether life or death. Jesus has triumphed and your life is safely in His hands.
An oil change. It’s a necessary part of owning a car. It has to happen about every three to five thousand miles. Why? Because as good as the oil is, it breaks down. What was originally strong, clean, and pure, over time becomes weak and dirty. Refuse to change the oil and eventually your car becomes sluggish and breaks down. Change the oil and you will notice that it has fresh power, renewed energy, and better gas mileage. You may have the finest car, equipped with every feature, and all the luxuries, but if the oil doesn’t get changed, it quickly becomes worthless. Fresh oil is a must! What is true of our car is true of our spiritual life. It doesn’t matter how long we have been in church, how well we look, or how much knowledge we may have of scripture, without a fresh touch of God’s spirit we will become sluggish, get weary, and break down. Are you lacking spiritual energy? When is the last time a touch of God’s Spirit has overwhelmed you or you got lost in God’s presence? When’s the last time you went to your knees in prayer and couldn’t leave? If it’s been a while, could it be that you need an invigorating anointing? Know this, your world saps your energy and steals your spiritual passion, and a fresh anointing is a must. David said in Psalm 92:10, “. . .I have been anointed with fresh oil.” What David understood was, that fighting giants, defeating adversaries, and living a God led life spends energy and wears down the soul. His solution to the daily grind? A fresh anointing of oil. Feeling weary? Lacking energy? Ask God for an oil change, for Him to send an energizing oil over your heart, soul, and life.
The Underdog. In last year’s March Madness, it was Oral Robert University, this year it is St. Peter’s. They come out of nowhere, usually a small college that no one has heard of, and though they have been invited to the event, they’re not supposed to win, but they do. And once they win, especially when your team has lost, the crowd jumps on their bandwagon. Everyone likes to see David beat Goliath. Somewhere along the line some self-righteous pharisee turned God into Thor, a God that is just waiting to hammer people with judgement when they fail. If you’re not blessed, it’s because you are not pleasing God. If you are going through difficult times, it’s because God is against you. When the woman was caught in adultery, the “rule” people were screaming crucify her, but Jesus’ jumps on her bandwagon. Rocks drops, screams of judgement go silent, and Jesus is on his knees saying, “neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” Paul, struggling with his inadequacies, ask God to remove his thorn, instead God says, it okay if you’re broken, my grace is sufficient. Wherever you turn in the Bible, you see God rooting for broken people. Religion says cross every “t,” and dot every “i,” and then you are good enough, but Jesus throws party’s when broken people simply repent. Feeling like you don’t belong? Feel like you’re not good enough? Maybe you feel like you failed too many times. Know this, every time you have a win, every time you turn to Him, God jumps on your bandwagon. He is for you!
68 Teams. Four regions. In each, teams are ranked by computers and a handful of “in the know” people. Teams with ones and twos are expected to be there at the end of the tournament, 15 and 16’s are expected to make an early exit; just pebbles for the Goliath’s on the road to the Final Four. Except for one problem. Occasionally, a pebble forgets the ranking assigned by the professionals, and plays with a fire that can’t be defined by statistics. Instead of folding, they define themselves. It only happens a handful of times, but after a mind-blowing victory, when a “David conquers a Goliath,” you hear something like this, “no one gave us a chance, but we knew in our hearts we could do it.” We live in a culture that is label driven, and too many allow others to define who they are. Too often people are defined by the clothes they wear, the people they associate with, or the letters after their name. Yet, like a 15 and 16 seeded team, there are some who rip off their labels and define themselves in God. David was called too young, unproven, and unreliable, all which may have been true, but he had something that could not be measured. His family, peers and experts measured him by the world’s metrics, but David measured himself by something no one else could see, his God factor. He knew what God had done for Him and what God had called him to do. When that kind of faith is in place it doesn’t really matter the labels put on you. To someone today, do the same as David or a low seeded team, rip off the label and be who God called you to be!
And just like that, it happened. The crowd was gone. In early January you would have thought the entire town of Noblesville had joined our health club. Whether it was seven in the morning or seven at night, the place was packed. February comes and the crowds were still steady. There was determination on people’s faces; they were going to get fit and lose weight. But as it often does, resolve and resolution fade into routine and old habits. Now it’s the committed. Those who show up day in and day out; those who are dedicated to making a change. This isn’t something new. Paul called out the Galatians, saying “you were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?” It’s human nature to fade, to allow obstacles to overwhelm us and discouragements to defeat us. What is the difference between those who fade and those who fight? Often it comes down to just one thing, determination. We are awestruck by Paul’s incredible successes but realize Paul was given many opportunities to quit instead of continuing. Stoned, beaten, persecuted, misunderstood, shipwrecked, and jailed, all opportunities to quit. In 2 Corinthians 3:1 we see his resolve when we read, “I determined this for my own sake, that I would not come to you in sorrow again.” Paul went through bad times, often felt like a failure, and had seasons where so many misunderstood and opposed his teaching, yet he was determined. I will not quit. I will not be defeated. I will not give up. His determination, his passion and his vision pushed him past his problems and pain. How many churches would not have been established? How many books would not have been written? More importantly, how many lives would not know Jesus? When times are tough, don’t quit! Pray harder, fast longer, and be determined to finish what God has called you to do.
Our world seems to be giving us every opportunity to be scared, to live in fear. Many did, and some still, live in fear as COVID grips the globe. Anyone else race to the store to buy water and toilet paper when COVID derailed our lives? Ever get a call from the doctor’s office saying, “we need to run some test,” and where does our mind go? Often fear fills our mind and instantly we imagine the worst possible scenario. As war breaks out in Europe, for the first time, we have the ability to watch as a nation is being destroyed. In addition, there is a fear that at any moment we could wake up to the news that our country has been impacted by nuclear weaponry. What if I told you that fear is part of God’s design? That without fear we wouldn’t have the wisdom to avoid dangerous situations. Fear often protects us, but when fear gets out of control, it is sin. What fear should do is give us an opportunity to lean in and trust God. Jesus gives us a great illustration of what to do when facing fear in Matthew 14. We find Jesus’ disciples in the midst of a storm; one he had sent them into. As waves crash, lightening flashes, and disciples are panicking, Jesus appears. Suddenly everything changes for one disciple, Simon Peter. His focus moves from fear to faith, and in an instant, he is no longer fixated on the storm, but the God of the storm. Did the storm stop? Did the waves calm? Did the lightening cease? No, but Simon Peter’s focus changed and even though we often concentrate on him sinking, the truth is he ended up where everyone needs to end up when storms come. . . in the never-failing arms and safety of Jesus.
How accessible are you? Do you keep your cell phone by your bed at night? Are you constantly making sure its fully charged so you don’t miss a call or email? When it comes to checking texts, do you check once a day, once an hour, or once a minute. How about TikTok, Insta, or Facebook? Do you find yourself constantly refreshing or checking in? For some, being accessible is critically important, while for others, it feels better when you are off the grid. But let’s go back to the original question and ask it a bit differently, how accessible are you to God? Is your “spiritual phone” always on? Do you check in for a time of devotion and then shut it down for the day? Maybe occasionally breathe a prayer when there is an important meeting or at the lunch table. Does God have access to you at any time? Can He speak to you in the middle of a meeting, or when a waiter or waitress needs a word of encouragement? Does He have access to you when someone needs prayer in the moment? Can He stir you in the middle of the night or convict you in the middle of the day? Being accessible is critical to living a powerful Christian life. It’s not so much what happens on Sunday, but more so, what happens Monday through Friday that makes us dynamic Christians. In 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul challenges Timothy to be “instant in season, and out of season.” In essence, be ready to share the gospel, your story, and your faith in any moment. What will bring energy and life to your walk with God? Being accessible, being available to fulfill His will and purpose in your day. Turn on your spiritual phone, keep it charged and see what God can do through your life.
From the beginning of the year, God has laser focused messages at Life on the importance of seeing correctly, of being aligned with your pastors and the Spirit. Luke shows us the importance of being present in Acts 1. After Jesus ascends into heaven the disciples are left with the task of replacing Judas. As they begin the process, they first set the criteria for filling the position. What was the criteria? It was this, that whoever filled the roll had to have been with Jesus from His baptism until His death. Why? They understood that if the person had not been present, that they would not be able to align with the vision that Jesus had given them. How important was being present? All we have to do is turn to the first verse in Acts 2. Luke’s first line says it all, “they were in one place and in one accord.” You can’t get to one place and one accord without being present. Faithfulness brought vision, which brought possibility, which allowed 120 to experience a miraculous moment which would lead to a moment in Acts 17 when a society said, “these are they who have turned the world upside down. A question. How can you be aligned with the passion and heart of your pastors and the Spirit if you aren’t present? Over the past six weeks at Life we have cast vision on how to live a blessed life. Beyond the teaching of being financially faithful, we have talked about the importance of expanding your vision. Currently, Mary is leading a powerful study by Beth Moore called Entrusted. She spent days choosing the series, prays and studies each week, hoping ladies will catch the vision that Beth Moore is communicating. The adversary is subtle, he knows the power of “being present.” He understands when people aren’t present, they can never catch their pastors’ vision. A few have legitimist excuses, you live far from the church, but for others, it is simply a matter of priorities. What causes people to become discontent or drift? Most times it’s not sin, simply not being connected. It isn’t a lack of vision that will cause some to fade, merely a lack of being present.
We were on a two-lane road in upper Michigan surrounded by pine trees and snow. Picturesque, but not necessarily the place to be when you are looking for lunch. We came to a wide gap in the road when we saw a sign, “Antlers, A One-of-a-Kind Experience.” We started to pass it by, but something said, give it a run. What we experienced over the next hour can only be describe as “good food turned into an incredible dining experience. It all started with our waitress, Jan. A 50ish old red headed woman who could have sold ice cubes to an Eskimo. From the moment we met Jan it was as she had known us for 10 years, and it seemed whatever we asked for, she was determined to make happen. When I asked if they had sweet tea, she said no, but I can make it happen. I assumed that meant a pack of sugar, but instead she returned with a glass half filled with tea and ice, a cup of hot tea, and instructions of how to mix it so it would be as good as that “southern stuff.” Every dish was described as though it was the best that had ever been made and when we settled on the “Amazing Pot Pie,” we asked if we could split it, she said, “absolutely, but it might be a little small.” We were fine with that and then ordered our salad which involved Jan describing the favor of every dressing in detail. The meal presentation was top shelf, and the food was good beyond description. Stuffed like it was Thanksgiving, Jan somehow convinced us we needed one of the home desserts. We still don’t know how she did it, but somehow, she convinced us we needed two, one for now and one to take home. . . we bought both! For Jan, Antler’s was not a job, it was a passion. She didn’t just serve food, she created an atmosphere and made our dinner an experience. Her spirit and attitude made us wonder what it would be like if a church community had the same attitude, that church wasn’t just a Sunday thing, but a personal passion. How might it impact change someones concept of church?
It started with a call from Risa on Monday morning. “Dad did you hear? We’re going to have a blizzard; they’re saying we could have 18 inches of snow and 40mph winds. . . it the blizzard you’ve always prayed for!” As many of you know, I am the blizzard guy. For years I’ve prayed for my kids to experience what I experienced in 1978. But this news created a problem. We had just arrived in Orange Beach to spend a few days with my parents. I was setting in the sun on a patio enjoying the warm temperatures and watching the waves. I was about to miss the answer to prayer and likely never live down the fact that I was setting on a beach after praying for a blizzard for years. As fate would have it, situations at the church forced us to return early Wednesday morning, meaning we would get to experience the blizzard. But, as it always seems to happen, the storm weakened, and we just got a nice winter storm. This week’s event spoke to my heart and reminded me how easy it is to miss moments that we’ve prayed for. It’s exactly what happened to five virgins. Reflecting on the story in Matthew 25, there were ten virgins waiting for a groom who was delayed. In a tragic ending, five virgins missed their dream moment by not being at the right place at the right time. Why be faithful to prayer and devotional time? Why make God’s house our top priority? Because we never know when God may show up or answer a prayer. Whether it’s doing something, that at the moment seems important, like getting oil, or doing something innocent, like setting on a beach, as often as possible, be faithful to God’s house and your devotional time. Don’t miss your moment.
Same health club, same routine, but we were not ready for what awaited us this day. We hopped on our ellipticals and began our half hour journey to nowhere. As we’re walking, I begin to take inventory of those around us. First, I notice a man in front of us, probably mid-forties, in full business casual on the treadmill, he’s kick’ in it in what appears to be Sketchers, khaki pants with a belt, and a long sleeve polo. I give a head motion to Mary, and there’s instant laughter. Trying to gain composure, we look to our right and see a young lady on a treadmill, she’s wearing earbuds, gray sweatpants, a pink sweater, and a toboggan. The toboggan seems a tad strange, but it’s the fashion statement of the day, so we roll with it. What catches our attention is what happens next, within seconds after noticing her, she breaks out into full Michael Jackson on her treadmill. I’m now a tad stunned. Not to be a gawker, I look to the right of her to see someone who should not be wearing a two-piece workout outfit. She too is startled and staring at Michael Jackson in a toboggan doing her thing. Suddenly, as not to be outdone, she turns around backwards and attempts to run on her treadmill, thankfully this only last a few seconds, and she wisely decides to walk backwards instead. Don’t understand the purpose, but to each their own. Finally, trying to bring some semblance and normalcy back to the day, I look down our row to see a man going full speed on his elliptical with a towel covering his entire head…he sees nothing. Whether this is intentional we will never know. I continue to walk and think, I get the man with the towel on his head. My point in all this. Sometimes it’s just good to do your thing, keep on walking, and live for another day.
How far do you want mercy and grace to extend? Past your latest sin? Past your struggling weakness? Past your worst failure? Past your past? We’re all in when God stoops down, writes something in the sand, and forgives the woman caught in adultery. We love when Jesus cleanses the heart of the woman who has had five husbands and is living with a sixth man. But the real challenge comes when we must be like Jesus; forgive, extend grace, and show the mercy to others as he has done for us. What I’ve found is that it is much easier to receive mercy than to extend it. We hold on to grudges, are judge and jury, and hold on to pains that someone else caused. Is it possible that what made David a man after God’s heart wasn’t that he was perfectly Holy or righteous, but that he extended the same grace that God had extended to him to others? David had been pursued by King Saul for years, but when given the chance to exact revenge, he exhibited mercy. Saul is pursuing David and comes into a cave where David is hiding. David has the perfect opportunity to take Saul’s life, but instead, he cuts a corner off Saul’s garment and extends mercy. In another moment, Saul and his men fall asleep and David walks into the camp unnoticed. Standing over the problem of his life, instead of taking his life, he takes a few utensils and a sword and walks away. As we start this year, I encourage you to forgive, show compassion and extend mercy to those who have hurt you or have caused you pain. Why? Because if we want grace and mercy to go beyond our failures and shortcomings, we need to make sure it goes beyond what others need also.
It’s decision time! It’s a new year and with it comes the choice to plant new seeds. It matters what we plant at the beginning of our year, because eventually, what we plant comes to life and bares fruit. Here in Indiana, farmers decide in the winter what will be in their fields, whether wheat, beans, or corn and they have no doubt that what they plant will show up later in the year. Paul cautions the Galatians of the importance of the sowing and reaping principle, that it is not just an agricultural matter, but that it is also a spiritual one. Want to experience the presence and power of God? Want to see the hand of God impact your life? Sow correctly. Sow faithfulness to God’s house. Invest regularly in prayer and devotion. Invite God to be more involved in your daily life. Start or get involved in a small group. Sow kindness, mercy, and grace. All of these are seeds, that if planted, will lead to a God impacted future. Likewise, if we sow to our fleshly or selfish desires, we will reap the fruit of those seeds DNA. Farmers don’t plant corn and expect apples, neither can we plant to the flesh and expect to see God’s presence in a new dimension. Finally, I encourage you to plant spiritual seed generously. Paul said to the Corinthians, “I plant, Apollos watered, but it is God who gives the increase.” In essence, the more we plant in the Spirit, the more we give God an opportunity to multiply and bless. As you start your year, take time to think about what you want to experience in God and then plant abundantly.
It was a new day and a new beginning. Standing on the banks of the Jordon River looking into the land that God had promised, there had to be anticipation. One wonders the imagination people had as they prepared to move. After years of being transient, what would it be like to have a home? What vineyards and crops would they inherit? How would God be involved in their future? Wives would get to decorate a permanent dwelling. Men would farm the land, barter for goods, and establish economy. It would be a year like none before and bring opportunities beyond their wildest dreams. In some ways, that is where we stand as we enter in 2022. What will the year hold? What changes are in store? As a Christian we should walk into the new year with expectations. We should ask God to use our lives and let us experience His power in new dimensions. This year engage with God in a new way. Beyond being a Sunday Christian, seek God, ask Him to give you purpose beyond your 8-5. Engage with God and ask Him to use your skills and talents in a way that might bless His kingdom and potentially be the catalyst for someone coming to Christ. Where does it start? It starts with an invitation; by humbling ourselves before God. That’s why we’re starting the year with our LifeFast. Fasting positions us in the best place to see God glory, experience His presence, and be led by His Spirit. Why not take your 2022 to a new dimension? Open your heart and life to all the possibilities that God may have for you. Join us for LifeFast.