It’s a given, tough times come. When they come they either build trust and draw us closer to God or weaken our confidence and we find ourselves drifting away in doubt. It’s our response to difficult and challenging moments that determines much about our future. Having the ability to trust God involves understanding that everything isn’t logical or rational and to trust God when life doesn’t make sense. The more that we are around God, His presence, the more we have the ability to trust in Him. Why does Simon Peter have the faith to step out of the boat? He had been around Jesus and learned to trust His word. Sometimes God allows us to experience more than we can handle. On one occasion Jesus was in the boat with His disciples when suddenly a storm developed. Panic ensued, fear overwhelms the crew and suddenly they find themselves crying out for Jesus’ help. Who could have imagined? Jesus was in the boat, but still a storm came. What lesson is learned? Just because Jesus is in your boat doesn’t mean you won’t have storms. But even better, if Jesus is in the boat have confidence that the storm won’t sink you. In a storm? It’s likely that Jesus is using the storm for His purpose; to take your faith, your ability to trust Him, to a new level. Going through a tough time? Remember Paul’s words in Romans 8:28, we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.
Digital Friendships. They give us the impression that we’re connected, but the reality is that we live in a time when we are lonelier than ever. A friendship, it use to mean physical connection. It meant sharing an interest, understanding each other’s goals and enjoyed doing life together. The average American now has 300 Facebook friends but only two actual friends and a quarter of Americans say they have zero friends. We all need someone (and to be someone) who cares, who listens, who will let you vent and will let you cry. We have become a society of isolation. We push a button, pull into our garages and shut the door behind us. We go into different rooms and watch tv and movies. We set around the same restaurant tables, but separated by our devices. We have become alone, together. In Genesis 2:18, right at the beginning of time, God said of Adam, “it is not good for man to be alone.” Isolation is one of Satan’s greatest tools. When did Satan tempt Jesus? When he was alone. The great challenge of our day is to protect and build relationships, to connect. How do we do it? Three things to look for as we fight for connection. A friend that will challenge you, make you better. A friend that will help you grow in God and grow your faith. A friend that will tell you the truth, especially when you don’t want to hear it. If we can find the right friends, we may be one friendship away from changing our destiny.
There will always be moments when we are tempted to cut our losses and run but often God is saying, “stay.” Ruth is a beautiful example where logic seemed to be saying go back, but faith was saying, “stay.” Ruth 1:16 says, “But Ruth said, do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”I believe Ruth understood that the moment was more about who would be her God than her physical circumstances.She believed in Naomi’s relationship with God, and because of her decision to stay, she was catapulted into an introduction to Boaz. There are two things that we need to do if we are going to be where God wants us. First, ask some questions. Where is God asking me to “stay?” What does God want me to pursue? More family time? More spiritual development? If so, stop pursuing your dreams and follow His. Second, be a finisher. God often uses the very things that we hate, that hurt and are difficult to rewire and transform us. If you’ve quit something that you should have stayed with, have the courage to make it right. Joseph stayed with the process and the closing line to his story was, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” I challenge you, find your “stay” and see where it takes you.
Jealousy, envy, gossip and hurt. Just a few contaminants that can get in our hearts and make us toxic. These toxins steal joy, peace and happiness and leave us discontent and dissatisfied. How do we turn it around? One of the quickest ways is to turn our focus from ourselves to others; to serve. Pouring out of ourselves is one of the quickest ways to refill our hearts with joy and happiness. By nature, we are all self-centered. What parent had to teach their child to say, “mine?” God’s nature is the opposite of human nature. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself.” Serving is to love people, hurt with them, pour into them, to listen; It is to share ourselves. True service expects nothing in return. God wants us to be contributors, not consumers. Which are you? A consumer drops their kids off in a class, grabs a cookie, gets some coffee, enjoys the service (maybe, if the music fits my taste and the message doesn’t convict) and goes home for the week? A contributor’s life says I’m here to serve, how can I make a difference, how can I bless someone. We must remember that the church exists for the world. Serving must not be something we do, but who we are. Make it a life goal to serve. Put it into practice this year, set aside seven days or partial days to be a part of something that impacts others. Being a servant should be the core of our Christian identity.
Stepping toward our destiny may mean we have to step away from our security and each time we are willing to take a risk, to do something unfamiliar or uncertain, we learn more about God and to trust Him more.Going where God wants us to go often means leaving what is comfortable, predictable and easy and often God has to stir us, make us uncomfortable or challenge us to think in a new way. Waiting for lunch, Simon Peter deals with a disturbing dream that defies everything he believes. Three separate times a sheet drops down challenging him to eat food that was considered “unclean.” Confounded by the dream, Simon Peter doesn’t realize the dream is preparing him for a new realm of belief and understanding of God. As the dream comes to an end, a man from the house of Cornelius comes asking him to preach the Gospel. The dream leads to a “go” that brings the Gospel to a new ethnicity of people. With every “go” there is a risk verses reward challenge, and either we ourselves or our adversary, makes the risk look larger than the reward. In reality, it is just the opposite, the reward is almost always greater than the risk. Why are we hesitant? Because fear loves to overwhelm faith. We want details, we rationalize, when God is saying, “trust me, go.” Where is God asking you to go? Stagnation in our walk with God and life is not God’s plan. Step into your “go” and watch where God takes you!
Today we celebrate 15 years of Life. From a garage sale and weekly Bible studies in our home, to the Goddard School, to Brooks School Elementary and now, to its current campus, on 126th, it’s been quite the journey. It’s surreal to think that Life has been a church for fifteen years. In so many ways March 7, 2004 seems like yesterday. That was the day we stepped into Brooks School Elementary for our first weekly service. We were naive, young and unexperienced. I was 40, Mary was 36, Gentry was seven and Risa five. That Sunday about forty of us joined together to worship and over the next five years we watched as the congregation grew. Sunday services were at Brooks School and Wednesday’s in our home. In the fall of 2007 we got the miraculous call from the Coffey family, and I heard the words I’ll never forget, “we want to donate five and a half acres to the church.” Plans began to form, construction began in 2008 and in 2009. It was during that time that Bill and Anita James saw the vision and jumped in during our construction phase. In April of 2009 we moved in and later that year we celebrated five years with Pastor Chester Mitchell from Ashburn, Virginia. Finally having a home, Life began to grow and new team members came on board. Willie and Ashley Travis and Erik and Brittany Poling soon made Life their home and suddenly Life began to minister in new dimensions. 2010 and 2011 brought musical groups, Royal Taylor and The Experience Band. It was our time with the Experience Band that we met Korey Elkins and a few years later he began to lead our worship. In 2014, we celebrated 10 years as a church and our personal 25 years of ministry. Rex Johnson came from Austin, Texas and challenged us to “follow the Spirit.” The last five years brought both tremendous challenges and changes, but through commitment to prayer, following after God’s leading and continuing growth that brought amazing people to help, we watched as God did miraculous things. The growth brought challenges to our Kids and Youth ministry and it became obvious that we needed to expand. With the vision of our Board of Directors, Don Baldwin, Tarren Cruz, Milford Hudson, Andy Purcell, Lance Russom and Don Starks we broke ground in the fall of 2017. As we celebrate 15 years today, we have nearly completed Phase Two. Where do we go from here? We cannot rest, God has given us more to do! “Church without Walls,” taking life to the world through live video, is coming soon and plans are already complete for Phase Three; an expanded lobby and nursery, a social gathering space with a small café and several large educational rooms. Beyond that, who knows where God will lead. But today we stop to give Him glory for all He has done and celebrate 15 incredible years of Life!
Learning to Stop. It sounds easier than it is. It’s just one more cookie. It’s just another minute or two on social media that turns into thirty. Learning to stop takes time and experiences. Time and experience create wisdom, it’s life experiences, yours and what we learn from others and wisdom is God’s navigational tool that helps us to make right decisions and helps us to stop making or repeating wrong choices. Have a major decision in front of you? Here are three processes to help. First, stop! Use wisdom from your experiences or glean wisdom from others who already walked through your situation. Often the best thing we can do is take a time out. Hit the pause button. Sleep on it. Next, ask yourself these questions. “Where will this end up? Is this the story I want to write? Is this God’s story for me?” Finally, visualize the outcome long-term. Visualizing can help us connect the dots from where we are too where we want to be rather than where we are and how did we get here. Taking time to implement these three techniques can help us to stop and start us in a new direction. What is God asking you to abort, abandon, to stop, so you can live to tell a better story and have a better life? Hebrews 12:1says, “Lay aside every weight and sin.” What is the one thing that is really hindering you? Seek God’s help, pray, read your bible and fast and I believe you can begin a stop today.