The book of Matthew describes the moment the angel appears to Joseph and announces that his bride to be, Mary, is pregnant. In Matthew 1:21 the angel gives Joseph the child’s name, saying, “she will give birth to a Son; and you shall name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Up to this moment God has had titles and descriptive terms, but never a name. We get a glimmer, a possibility of his name in Isaiah 9:6, when Isaiah says, his name shall be . . . but then describes Him as Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Old Testament heroes described Him as El Roi (God who sees), El Shaddai (God Almighty), Jehovah Rophe (God that Heals), Jehovah Jireh (God who Provides) and Jehovah Shalom (God of Peace), but all of these were merely describing a portion of His power. Everything changes the moment the angel gives Joseph His name. James tells us that demons tremble in fear at the name of Jesus, Paul says that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, and John tells us to ask anything in the name of Jesus. We are instructed to pray in the name of Jesus, baptize in the name of Jesus and preach the name of Jesus? Why, because when we use the name of Jesus every descriptive word and title ever used is spoken. The name of Jesus is omnipotent (all powerful), omnipresent (everywhere at all times), and omniscient (knows all things). When we honor, revere, and speak the name of Jesus we bring anything into the realm of possibility. At the name of Jesus blind see, deaf ears open, lame walk, growths fall off, disease relents and death surrenders. It is by the name and the power of Jesus that we are saved. When you say Jesus, you bring all possibilities to your situation. His name shall be Jesus!
Jim Valvano, lovingly nicknamed Jimmy V, was a basketball coach who has become an inspiration too many. He bounced around several universities before eventually coaching the NC State Wolfpack in the 80’s. In 1983, Valvano’s team won the NCAA Championship, a victory that probably is the greatest Cinderella story in college basketball history. In 1992, Valvano was diagnosed with cancer and in March of 1993, nine weeks before his death, Valvano spoke at the ESPY Awards and delivered one of the most inspirational speeches you will ever hear. Here are just a few of Jimmy V quotes. I hope they inspire you to live with tenacity.
- “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”
- “Be a dreamer. If you don’t know how to dream, you’re dead.”
- “The greatest gift you can give your children is to believe in them.”
- “Life changes when you least expect it to. The future is uncertain. So, seize this day, seize this moment, and make the most of it.”
- “Nothing has ever been accomplished in any walk of life without enthusiasm, without motivation, and without perseverance.”
- “Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul.”
- “In every single day, in every walk of life, ordinary people do extraordinary things. Ordinary People accomplish extraordinary things.”
- “Know where you have been, where you are now and where you want to be.”
- “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”
You can read more quotes from Jimmy V at everydaypower.com/jimmy-v-quotes/
As a kid my mom would take us to downtown Noblesville to watch people. I don’t know where the idea came from, or what we were looking for, we just observed people as they shopped. It wasn’t as if we had a lot of other options; televisions were black and white and a little larger than an iWatch, and life ran about as fast as a turtle. I remember taking my sister to the mall to watch people. We observed their expressions, remarked on what we thought they were thinking, and laughed, more at our comments than the people. It all seems weird now, but back then it was our entertainment. My daughter Risa got in “watching” at an early age. I was working on a pipe in the bathroom when she walked in and asked, “daddy, do you need a watcher?” A tad confused, I inquired, “Risa, what is a watcher?” She said, “you know dad, someone to watch you work.” I said sure and she watched…and asked another dozen questions or so. Being an observer of people and life and can bring amazing opportunities and insights. In Acts 17 Paul observed the people of Athens. After watching them, he commented, “I had observed that you are religious people,” he then went on to introduce them to Jesus. He challenged the Philippians to observe those who walk correctly and follow their pattern. Even Jesus told us to “watch that we be not deceived.” This holiday season become a watcher. Observe people who may be in need. Watch for the waitress who seems distraught or discouraged. Listen to the co-worker who is overwhelmed with life. Be sensitive, ask God to give you the right words, and be a source of encouragement. Being like Jesus doesn’t mean pushing religion, being condensing or judgmental, it does mean being willing to take time, listen and care for someone who needs to be introduced to Jesus.
Leftovers. Our refrigerators are likely full of them after Thursday’s Thanksgiving festivities. You were either gifted containers as you left the celebration, or as the host, you got left with everything from cranberry sauce to sweet potato casserole. I must admit there are some things that seem to taste better warmed up and you may have snacked on a few goodies over the weekend, but more than likely, the leftover ham and yams will likely head to the garbage later this week. Unfortunately, we’ll probably throw away more food this week than some will see in a month. In Matthew 15 a Canaanite woman comes to Jesus begging for Him to heal her daughter who is demon possessed. Uncharacteristically, Jesus is rather rude and ignores her request. Instead of being offended, the woman becomes more persistent in crying out to him. When Jesus says, “it isn’t good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs,” you would think that the woman would turn and walk away in disgust. Instead, her resolve moves to another level as she says, “yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table,” in other words, even the dogs get the leftovers. Her retort softens the heart of Jesus and in an instant her daughter is healed as he commends her for her great faith. What do you need today, a physical or financial miracle? A wayward child to return or a family situation to change? This week as you open the refrigerator and look at the leftovers, remember all you need are God’s scraps for a miracle to come to pass. Be tenacious, even when it feels hopeless and God seems distant, next level faith may cause a crumb to fall off of heavens table.
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving it should be easy to reflect on God’s goodness and give thanks. Though our country is in a difficult season, we’re still fortunate to live with countless freedoms and blessings. While it may not be your dream home, you woke up in a bed and looked up to see a roof over your head. As a chill begins to fill the air, we kick on furnaces, add blankets to beds and grab coats before we leave our homes. Today, we might ask, what do you want to eat or how can I lose weight, but probably not, I wonder if there will be food for me today. If you’re reading this devotion, it means you have your sight and you’re holding it in your hand, either physically or on an electronic device. Much of the third world walks to destinations, while we jump into vehicles and travel in luxury. Consider the blessings we have if we have health, family, and friends. Beyond the material and relational blessings, there is more. King David, who lived a blessed life, reflected on God’s goodness in Psalm 136. He doesn’t mention material or relational favor, but reflects on one blessing, “that God’s mercy endures forever.” In fact, so overwhelmed by God’s mercy, he repeats the phrase, “his mercy endures forever,” 26 times. I too say, thanks God, for your mercy. Beyond the physical blessings, wonderful family, and good friends, I’m grateful for God’s overextending mercy. Mercy to robe himself in flesh and give His life for me, grace that extends beyond my continual shortcomings, and love that is unfailing and infinite. As we gather this Thanksgiving, remember to give thanks that you know a merciful, gracious, and loving God.
Wind, we can’t see it, but we can hear it when it blows through a grove of trees, and we can definitely see its aftereffects. This weekend, here in central Indiana, wind pretty much ended fall, stripping trees of their beautiful color. More powerful winds bring tornados that wreck havoc. Set along a southern coast, and you might experience the powerful impact of a hurricane that changes the landscape of life. In the summer there’s nothing like a gentle breeze to take the heat of the day away, yet when that same wind blows in the winter, it makes cold turn to frigid. Though no one has ever seen wind, everyone would acknowledge it exists. In John 3:8, Jesus is explaining the Spirit to Nicodemus and compares it to the wind. He says you can’t see it; you don’t know where it comes from, nor where it’s going, but there is no doubt when you have experienced it. In a world that wants everything explained and leaves very little room for the supernatural, Jesus is letting us know that if we are going to experience the power of the Spirit, we’re going to have make room for the unexplainable, yet undeniable. It’s not coincidental that Jesus uses wind to explain the Spirit. When a move of the Spirit blows into a life, family, or church it does exactly as wind. It can be a refreshing breeze. A wind that strips away the unnecessary junk clinging to our lives or tornadic power that changes the landscape of our lives. In Acts 2, the Spirit stripped away the guilt of failure and fear of religion. In Acts 3, Simon Peter describes the coming Spirit as “a time of refreshing,’ and in Acts 17, the town said of the disciples, “these are they who have turned the world upside down. Pray that God will let us experience His sovereign, unexplainable, yet undeniable wind of the Spirit.
Evidently God likes to celebrate. We don’t get too far into the Bible before God gives Moses his Law. While much attention is put on the negative elements of the Law, there was also some good aspects. That includes the Feast, or celebrations, that God called for each year. The major purpose of these Feast was to remember and give thanks to God for all He had done, and to bring people together. The Passover Feast was to remember and celebrate God bringing people out of bondage, and the Feast of Pentecost was to remind them to celebrate God’s holiness and power. But it’s the third Feast, the Feast of Booths, that I draw your attention to. This celebration took place in the fall and was a time of giving thanks for a good harvest, recognizing God as their provider, and celebrating the goodness of life. People basically camped out, ate good food, listened to music, and partied for seven days. It was open, not only to the people of Israel, but to all people who trusted in God. It was a festival where God wanted people to enjoy His blessings. I love that! Too often we lose focus on the goodness of God and great blessings of life. We allow social media and doomsday broadcasters to control our emotions and thoughts. We forget to look around at all the good, the good people God has put in our lives, and the blessings that we do enjoy. Today, our Chili Cook-Off is our Feast of Booths. It’s a moment to celebrate life, to celebrate the friendships we have, and to make new memories. It’s a time to reminisce, laugh and make new friends. So today, eat more chili than you should, trash talk more than you can live up to and make your circle bigger than normal. Celebrate life with your Life Community and remember, the best is yet to come!
A bomb cyclone, a somewhat new weather expression, which in simple terms means we’re about to get what the old-timers called, “a gully washer”. That’s what we’ve experienced in central Indiana over the past few weeks. It’s made for lush green grass, a late arriving fall, and some brilliant fall colors. There’s been so much rain though, that its overwhelmed creeks and low-lying areas, putting stress on areas prone to flooding. When heavy rains come my mind goes to the words of Simon Peter in Acts 2:17, “that in the last days that God would pour His Spirit out on all flesh.” I take heart in those words, that regardless of social reformations, political agendas and a woke culture, there will be a day that God will pour out a boundless flood of His Spirit. We’ve had glimpses of it in the past with powerful moves in New York City under Jeremiah Lampier in 1860, life impacting experiences in Topeka Kansas in 1900, and Azusa Street in California in what Time Magazine called one of the top 100 events to happen in the 20th Century. My feeling is that those events will pale in comparison to what God will soon bring to this world. In Elijah’s day prophets were being killed, famine was overwhelming the land and there had been no rain for three and a half years. Elijah went to his knees, kept looking for God’s promises and speaking faith. In time, a small cloud appears, and Elijah spoke words that I still hold on to today, “I hear the sound of an abundance of rain.” Be encouraged, as rough as it may look, God is still in control. There is a “spiritual bomb cyclone” coming, a good old gully washer that will clean out the sickness of sin and bring fresh hope to our hearts and families.
Fall, the season when leaves fall and flowers fade, but what many don’t realize, is that fall is also planting season. Over the past few weeks, I’ve planted a couple of trees, sown Kentucky Blue Grass, and hit the yard with a covering of Scott’s fertilizer with a good dose of 2-4-D. Why? Because fall is the best time to make sure you have a successful spring. Planting trees in the fall allows their roots to grow deep while the branches are dormant. Seeding has the same impact, grass grows stronger, and when you fertilize, you kill both seen and unseen weeds. By fertilizing we eliminate a lot of problems that would show up in the spring and summer. Why do I mention fall planting? Because I believe there is an important spiritual principle to be found. Why do our lives have dormant times? Why do we have seasons where God seems to disappear, or we feel abandoned? Because God knows we need developmental seasons. Dormant periods are times when God brings growth to our lives. Some look at fall, when the trees are losing their leaves, and say, the trees are dying, but we know better. The same principle works in our lives, some may look at a person and say they are dying, or you may feel as though God has forsaken you, but be confident, God is at work. It’s in dormant times that our faith grows deep. It’s in difficult stretches that we experience God in ways beyond our imagination. Moses has a Fall season. He kills an Egyptian, flees to the wilderness and his life appears to be dying. But it was in the wilderness that Moses learned to hear God’s voice, trust God, and navigate the land he would lead people through, all in a season that seemed to be counterproductive. Don’t be discouraged when your life feels inactive, God is developing you, preparing you for your next season. Embrace your fall!
The can said, “do not puncture,” but since my free-on hose was not penetrating the can, I thought I would use my ingenuity. The plan was to tap the top with a small nail, then with my cat like quickness, attach the hose, and fill my Toyota’s air conditioner. It sounded like a solid idea, but was I ever wrong. I was not nearly quick enough, nor had I anticipated what would come out of the can. My gentle tap set off Old Faithful. A geyser of air and oil shot out of the can and before I realized what had happened or could get the hose on the now slippery can, I had lost over half its contents. R-134 was everywhere. Thankfully, the lesson only cost me about $5. My experience with a can of R-134 is what sometimes happens when we play with sin. The Bible is filled with caution signs warning us about the power of sin, yet for some reason we disregard its warnings. In the moment sin seems like a good idea, we justify our actions, or think we can handle it, but in the end, to often it turns out like my can of R-134, a bigger mess than we could have ever imagined and costing more than we ever anticipated. David, the man after God’s own heart, was a perfect example of the power of sin. Victorious over a bear, lion and giant, able to deny the temptation to slay his adversary, David peering over his balcony, spots a bathing Bathsheba. His flesh says, you can handle this, you deserve it, while his heart was saying, “warning, danger, stay away.” He justifies he actions, pushes past the warnings, and within days his life is in disarray. The mess was larger than he imagined and cost him more than he anticipated. What warning signs are you ignoring? Stop now! Listen to God’s promptings, don’t mess with sin.
The hot dry days of August have transitioned to cool nights in September. The breezes of October are beginning to blow, so it is inevitable, fall. The leaves are starting to change. Green leaves are turning yellow, orange, red and brown and soon there will be a kaleidoscope of color here in central Indiana. We’re putting out the mums, buying hay bales, adding pumpkins, and pulling out the sweaters and boots. It’s fall. Isn’t it amazing how easily we sense the changing of the seasons? Crazier still, it’s amazing how we adapt. What about the changes that are taking place in our lives, are we as aware? Unlike the change from summer to fall, too many are oblivious to the deviations that are taking place in their lives. They fail to see themselves slipping away from their time of prayer or devotion. They seem unconscious of the fact that more and more things are getting in front of their faithfulness to God and His house. Too many seem unfazed that their heart has grown calloused and cold to God’s presence and gentle voice. While we so easily see the transitions of seasons, we often miss the critical changes happening in our lives. I often wonder if Judas knew something was changing in his life. Was he aware that greed was gripping his heart? Could he feel the spirit of deception creeping into his spirit? Could he sense that he was drifting away from Jesus? People don’t go from faithful to unfaithful overnight, it is a process, like the changing of the seasons. We’ve faced a lot of changes over the past 16 months. Something is happening, and while we can’t put our finger on it, we can sense it. A word to the wise. Stay alert, aware and on guard. Be prepared for the new season.
The smell of leaves in the fall. The smell of your favorite coffee brewing. The smell of fresh cookies coming out of the oven or your favorite candle burning. We can all relate to our favorite scent. I remember vividly when the kids were small, Gentry and Risa were on my lap as I read them a story. Periodically, as I was reading, Gentry would lift my hand and sniff my skin. After he had done this a few times, I asked him what he was doing. He said, “smelling you mommy, you smell good.” Of course, as a mom, this made me feel good. I related this moment to our fragrance as it relates to our relationship with God. When our lives are lived to please him, our fragrance matters to Him. Throughout the Bible, scent mattered to God. Some brought Him joy while others made Him recoil. What does the fragrance of your life say to Him? What does it say to the world around you? He loves the scent of love, kindness, and peace. He loves when we speak about Him to others and share the good fragrance of His love to others. He, however, hates the fragrance of gossip, lying and bitterness. What does your scent say to the world around you? Let it be a fragrance that smells like Fall, your favorite cookie or perfume. Let it be a fragrance the world will ask, what is it that I smell? And you can say with confidence, it is the fragrance of a God that loves you more than anything, and you can have that fragrance too.
For forty days he had gotten a glimpse of the possibilities. He had seen the lush crops and amazing groves of fruit. He had walked the streets of large cities and touched their massive walls. He has walked through beautiful valleys, and now, he’s standing near picturesque farm on the ridge of a mountain. As a breeze blows through his hair and the sun sets, all he can hear is the words of the Lord, “go and spy out the land I am going to give you.” With that, he along with nine other spies, head back to camp. To his amazement, only he and Joshua have a good report, all the others see obstacles where he had seen opportunity. In a moment, his dreams are dashed by the lack of faith and vision in others. For forty years he will pay the penalty for the doubt of others. Finally, the visionless pass, and a new generation of faith stand ready. A generation with a leader who says, “we can conqueror, we can possess.” Passion and possibility are alive. Joshua leads Israel through a dry Jordan River and into the Promised Land. Victories come quickly, and within a short time, Israel has conquered the land. Within days of the final conquest, Caleb stands in the tent of Joshua asking, “give me my mountain.” Though his dream had been delayed, and journey difficult, Caleb’s passion for his promise had not wavered. He had not forgotten what he had seen standing on that ridge forty years earlier. I’m sure he often wondered if he would ever see it, but now possibility is reality. He holds the deed to his promise. What dream has God given you? Hang on to it. Though it may seem dead, it’s likely just dormant. Never let go of your dreams, don’t doubt God. What you have seen and what you have heard will come to pass.
How often do you read your Bible? Every day? Once a week? A couple times a month? Never? I ask because a person that doesn’t read their Bible regularly, particularly a person who calls themselves a Christian, is a danger to the kingdom of God. Why? Several reasons. First, if a person is not reading their Bible, it means they are not in an intimate relationship with Jesus. To know Jesus, we should want to know His Word. There should be a passion to find out ways to know him better, to understand His values, principles and what His plans are. It’s through the Bible that God speaks to us. Second, a person who is not reading their Bible has no idea of what the Bible says, they can’t define right and wrong, are confused by cultural challenges, and they are entertained by messages that are more about pop culture and trendy concepts. Without reading our Bible we define morality and Biblical values based on popular opinion or the latest Christian trend. This allows churches and ministers to say anything to their audience. Simply put, if an audience isn’t reading their Bible, there is no accountability for that church or its ministers. Finally, when people don’t read their Bible, Christianity can be redefined. There becomes confusion. People begins to question what it means to be a Christian. In the lives of Christians, whose life are not based in the Word of God, one can be lgbt, support abortion, have loose morals, abuse substances, watch questionable programing and dress inappropriately and feel no conviction, guilt, or remorse. Without the Word of God as our compass and final source of authority, we have worthless Christianity that has no more value than those who live without Christ. As we work through the Month of the Family, make a fresh commitment to spending time reading your Bible and building its importance in your family.
Jesus. Right now, say His name out loud. It doesn’t have to be screamed or shouted, it can be spoken in a gentle whisper, but know this, when you say it, all creation hesitates. Every demon in hell, disease, sickness, evil and dark spirit pauses. Water waits to see if it must turn to wine, sickness waits to see if it can continue, and death waits to see if it must release its grip. Philippians 2:11 says, “that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Simply put, the name of Jesus is the most powerful word you will ever speak. We must remind ourselves often of the power in the name of Jesus, and not only be reminded of it, but choose to use His name. We must teach our kids and this generation to say the name of Jesus in any situation. It’s not a magical word, it is the word that has supreme authority. James 2:19 says, you believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. I am reminded that all Jesus did was step on the Gadarenes seashore and demons that had controlled a man and confounded a region for years, instantly cried for mercy, begging Jesus to let them go into pigs. They knew who Jesus was, His power and immediately relented in cowardness. We have access through faith, to ask anything in His name. John 14:14 says, “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” Our asking must be in alignment with His plan and purpose, it can’t be done in selfishness, but when we ask in faith, anything is possible. Where does salvation begin? By calling on the name of Jesus. Acknowledging our need for Him. It’s here we begin the journey that takes us to repentance and baptism. The name of Jesus. Say it now, say it often. Say it with confidence.
Labor Day. The unofficial end of summer and the beginning of fall. It’s when we move from t-shirts to sweaters. We put away the sandals and bring out the boots. We’re already starting to feel a few of those crisp fall nights. Soon mums and pumpkins will be on the front porch, and we’ll be raking leaves. At Life, fall is when we turn our focus to our families, we call September, “The Month of the Family.” The idea comes from the Old Testament when Israel would gather as a nation. These gatherings were so important that they did them three times a year. These get-togethers focused on the families of Israel recommitting their lives and families to God, remembering God’s goodness, and celebrating life with good food and friends. Important values then, important values still today. So, what should we focus on during the Month of the Family? The same things that Israel did. Reconnect to God. Make sure you, your spouse and children are committed to God first, that we remember that He is our priority and source of our successes. Second, reconnect to each other. This means being intentional, it is saying my family is my priority. Spend time, talking listening and laughing. Ride bikes, take walks, play games. It is all about saying life gets busy, but you are the most significant part of my life. Finally, it’s connecting with your church family. There are co-workers and acquaintances, but then there are those who will be with you in tough times, that’s your church family. This month FSM will be going to Top Golf, we’ll have special men’s and ladies only evenings, and it will culminate with our annual Chili Cook-off, the one event you don’t want to miss. Plan to reconnect to God, your family, and your church. Join us this September as we celebrate family.2
Back to School 2021. For parents, the educational challenges may seem overwhelming, and students have uncertainty as they walk into climates that are more diverse than ever. Some have opted for private schools, others have chosen schooling from home, still, many must rely on the public school system. How do we navigate through the changing landscape of moral and social issues being taught in our schools? Truthfully, I don’t have the answer, but I am confident of one thing, that God can empower every student, to not only survive, but thrive. How? It will take intentionality, perseverance, and dependence on God. As parents, we must be intentional about covering our students daily in prayer. As families, we must be unwavering in creating and maintaining spiritual atmospheres in our homes. Finally, we must be committed and faithful to God’s house. It’s in His house where we will get strength for the challenges, wisdom for the tough times, and experience the Spirit in ways that will empower us. Am I confident our students can survive? Yes, and not only survive, but become powerful spiritual influencers. The Bible is filled with young people who lived in godless societies, with young men who became powerful leaders, who turned their nation back to God, in incredibly dark times. Esther stood in the face of evil, had bold courage, and saved her entire nation from certain extinction. Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego stood in the face of incredible pressure, to bow to godlessness of their society, and caused an entire nation to say, “your Lord, He is God.” Today, perspective is important. How we look at the challenges is critical. Do we view them as overwhelming or as opportunities? If we get it right, we educate and train, if we are faithful, it might be that these students become the new generation that are called “heroes of the faith.”
Have you ever seen someone walk a high wire? What does it take? One word, balance. Many have poles, some use their arms, but all must have incredible balance. Balance, it’s something we’ve lost in our society. It seems that everyone must be democratic or republican, liberal or conservative, pop-culture or sub-culture. There appears to be no place for someone who wants to be in the middle. Someone once told me that if you try to live in the middle you end up getting ran over by people on both sides. It seems to me that too many people have lost the concept of living a balanced life. We camp in extremes. Whether it is ministers, churches, Christians, or people in general, we tend to only associate with those who are like us, agree with our positions and do what we do. I’m thankful for Nathaniel Urshan, the pastor I had as a young man. He invited ministers to his pulpit who were young and old, conservative or liberal, same in doctrine and some who were slightly different. You couldn’t put him in a camp, he associated with so many. He pastored his saints as individuals, and allowed people to be distinctive, there was room in his church for all types of personalities. He didn’t condone all they did, nor did he condemn, he preached with conviction, taught with passion, and loved with Godly compassion. His example has been the blueprint of how I’ve tried to live my life, in balance. As a parent, I’ve tried to live steadily before my kids, as a person, I’ve tried to live moderately, and as a pastor I’ve tried to invite all kinds of people to the Life pulpit. My advice today, live in the middle, invite all kinds of people into your life. Learn from them. Maybe, if enough of us get in the middle, people will see more of Jesus.
Recently the classic movie, Field of Dreams, produced in 1989 with Kevin Cosner came to life. In the movie, Cosner is at his farm when he hears a voice that says, “if you build it, they will come.” In brief, Cosner builds a diamond and one evening two teams come out of the corn field, play a game, and then disappear back into the field never to be seen again. Thursday night the movie came to life when the Chicago White Sox played the New York Yankees in front of a little over 7,000 fans in Dyersville, Iowa. It was an instant classic. Cosner walked out of the corn field toward second base tossing a baseball, turned and looks back toward center field, and suddenly White Sox and Yankee players start pouring out of the corn field onto the diamond. Talking about goose bumps! Turns out I wasn’t alone, over five and a half million people tuned in to watch the game, over three times as many viewers as for a normal game. It was truly an “if you build it, they will come moment.” The game inspired me as I thought about the purpose of Life. While there are many churches that are doing good works, we at Life are in pursuit of a move of the Spirit like in the book of Acts. A moment, an experience, that can only be defined as, “undeniable, but indescribable.” It will take lots of prayer, sacrifice and time, but it we will pursue it, it will happen, and people will come. Often people approach us with dreams they have had about Life. They’ve seen cars waiting to turn in to the campus, the auditorium filled to capacity and God’s presence moving authentically. Many days a wonder if this could be the day, the moment. What I believe is this, if we build it (pray, sacrifice, commit), the Spirit will fall, and people will come.
Christian artist Donnie McClurkin wrote a song many years ago entitled, “Stand.” It’s a song that I love to go back to when life gets difficult and I’m unsure of what to do. The initial verse opens with a series of questions, the first, “what do you do, when you’ve done all you can, and feels like it never enough.” It continues with “what do you do when you given it all, and it seems like you can’t make it through. Each verse continues with similar difficult situations, asking the same question, what do you do when… Thankfully, McClurkin doesn’t just ask questions, but offers solutions. It’s found in the chorus, “well you just stand, when there’s nothing left to do, you just stand, watch the Lord see you through, yes, after you done all you can, you just stand.” While his solution sounds simple, I’ve often found it to be the best answer. When Moses and the children of Israel stood in front of an impossibility, the Red Sea, God’s word to Moses for the people, “stand and see the glory of the Lord.” What did the disciples do when being accused in court by Pharisees and the Sanhedrin? They stood and said we will not deny the name or power of Jesus. How have we survived hardships, hurts and difficulties? What has been the solution to the issues and battles we’ve faced as a family? Simple. Stand. Stand on the Word of God. Stand in your faith. Stand on your knees in prayer. Stand in the power of God. Make the last nine words of McClurkin’s song your statement after every question, storm, or battle of life; “After you’ve done all you can, you just stand.”
I was 10 and in the fifth grade. Hurdles were a big deal to me. With long legs, speed, and tenacity I somehow managed to win the hurdles race at my school. With the win, I got to go to the high school track. I remember thinking, “how in the world did I get here”. I don’t remember if I won in my age group, but I do remember advancing and feeling proud to run the hurdle race for my school. Years later my daughter Risa decided to run hurdles at her school also, I was proud that she wanted to compete in the same race I did. It takes courage to run hurdles. Each jump must be perfect; you are always hoping you don’t trip and land on your face. Watching the summer Olympics, I gasped when a young lady who had worked her entire life to have an opportunity to be in the Olympics, crashed as she jumped the first hurdle. I understood her pain, though I can’t imagine the anguish she felt to do it on a world stage. She had worked hard and made it to the Olympics and though painful to fall, she should stand proud of the fact she had raced. In the race of life, we need to remember all of us have been chosen to run. We must never lose our tenacity, courage to run and our desire to conquer every hurdle that is put in our path. We were created to compete and although there will be times we may fall, trip and skin our knees, we must get up and keep running. All of us that stay in the race will win because Jesus promised He was going to prepare a place for those who finish the race. So, run and never give up. Jesus is cheering for you!
His yard has shade trees, fruit trees, cement and gravel patios, beautiful flowers, and lots of space to roam. The grass is lush and green, and the yard has been sprayed so there are no weeds or bugs. There is a fence to keep people and large animals from entering; he is protected. It should be a paradise. But for Gentry’s dog, JJ, it is not. He is constantly escaping through the fence to get on the other side. For some reason he feels as though the grass is green on the other side of the fence. It’s not. In fact, there are more weeds and bugs, and it is definitely not as safe. Next door are several large dogs and a few yards to the west, is a golf course where he could easily be hit by a ball. Travel a few yards east and he’s in the street where he could be hit by a car, or someone could take him. We’ve done all that we can to protect JJ, but regardless of how hard we try, we can’t protect him from himself. Kind of a snapshot of what God has done for us. God has given us everything we need to have a beautiful life. He has set parameters in place for our protection, to keep us safe. Yet, like JJ, many see the grass greener on the other side of the fence. For some reason much of humanity see sin as liberty; that on the other side of God’s Word and warnings, there is something better. Our world advertises happiness, freedom, and liberty without God, but way too often it’s filled with hurt, brokenness and pain. Learn to live in God’s constraints and all the good things He has prepared for you. Regardless of how it may look, living inside the fence is the best life.
Suppose your vehicle breaks down and you are given two options for repair. Option one is that you take your vehicle to an individual who is well studied in auto mechanics, often speaks at seminars about auto repair and can debate with great skill on how a vehicle should be fixed. His garage is state of the art, immaculate and has the latest technology. Option two is that you can take your vehicle to an individual who may or may not have an auto mechanics degree, but has worked on all types of vehicles, daily for over 30 years. His place is nice, but not as immaculate, his tools are worn and soiled, but you can ask him a question on nearly any issue, and he can give you an idea about what the problem may be without going to a manual. Where are you going to take your car? I don’t know about you, but my Toyota is headed to the garage where the mechanic has experience. Why? Because experience is often more valuable than information. We live in a world where people have all kinds of opinions on the Spirit. We’ve got pastors and individuals that have a variety of opinions, theories, and beliefs. They love to set around an argue and talk apologetics. There’s one thing they are missing. A book of Acts, fire falling, language changing experience. Until someone has experienced what Simon Peter, those in the upper room and the church in Acts experienced, their arguments are just conjecture. An experience changes everything. Job said, I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You. Someone may know that fire is hot and dangerous, but until they’ve had a first-, second-, or third-degree burn, they don’t know fire. Don’t let someone without an upper room experience explain away a book of Acts move of God in your life. Seek an experience.
You walk into a store and begin to look around. After perusing the store for a few minutes, you realize everything is slightly used, marginally broken, missing something or has been returned. A button is absent on a shirt. A vase has a miniscule chip. An appliance is in an open box. Almost everything in the store is useable, though some things seem, slightly defective. Some would walk away, only wanting something that is new, while others might think, “I’ll take a chance, I think I can work with this, or I can fix this.” Much of our home is filled with items bought at consignment stores, garage sales and secondhand retailers. Mary and I find pleasure in the search and getting great deals. One day, as I was reflecting on our finds, God gave me a gentle nudge, basically saying, what you do with things is what I do with people. God loves taking broken, hurting, and damaged people and putting them back together. Understand, all humanity is broken, all of us. In fact, if you get to know most of the Life Community, you will find it is filled with people who are or have been broken. Some of us are still missing some pieces in our lives and others God is still working on. If you are looking for a perfect friendship, perfect pastor or perfect church community, Life is probably not the place for you. But, if you are slightly broken, are willing to take a chance on God and some other damaged people, you will find some amazing treasures at Life. Get around some of us and you will find a few knobs or buttons missing, and you might find a few chips in our personalities or attitudes, but we are all becoming God’s treasures. He’s taken a chance on us. We’ve been blood bought and we’re now a work in progress. Life, a place to find or become a gently used treasure.
Freedom. It is the exemption from external control, interference, regulation. It’s the power to determine action without restraint. For many freedom means the ability to make our own decisions, go where we want and do what we want. Those who love to go to the lake and water-skiing experience a taste of freedom. There’s a liberating feeling on a warm summer day when water is spraying in your face as you skim along a lake, but are you truly free? Let the boat run out of gas or let go of the rope and the liberating ride is over. Ski the Rockies, nothing says freedom like a crisp Colorado morning and fresh powder. One of the most freeing feelings is casually meandering down a mountains slope, but again, are we actually free? Come to the bottom of the mountain or the end of the snowpack and once again the freedom ride is over. As Americans we champion the freedoms of our country, and while I am thankful, we are watching as our freedoms are slowly being taken away. So, where can we really find freedom? One source, Jesus. John 8:36 says, “…the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” This world is built on control, someone or something is always saying you can’t. Only life in Jesus truly liberates. Sickness may come, death will visit, and hard times might come but those things don’t rule those in Christ. We may fall to sin or fail miserably, but sin does not dominate those redeemed by Jesus. How? Simple. Those in Christ are not controlled or bound by this life. They have been set free. This life is temporal and while we hurt, grieve, and face difficult situations, we live this life in the freedom beyond the grave. We know a day is coming when we will truly be free. Today, July 4th, I invite you to experience the true freedom only found in Jesus.
James Springer wanted a Happy Meal. The problem was that it was ten o’clock in the morning and McDonald’s didn’t start serving lunch until 10:30a.m. According to the news, Springer became upset when they told him it was too early for a Happy Meal, so upset that he threatened to kill all the employees. Thankfully, the authorities were called, Springer was arrested, and the crisis was diffused. The whole story is a sad snapshot of where our society currently is. We have lost the art of being content, and appreciative. The issue of contentment is not new, but one humanity has dealt with from the beginning of time. Eve is blessed with a perfect world, but Satan subtlety convinces her she is not enough, that she doesn’t have enough. David marries King Saul’s beautiful daughter, but finds himself discontent, and nearly loses the kingdom and his family in his pursuit of Bathsheba. What about you? Are you constantly in pursuit of something? Are you continually upgrading to the latest phone, bigger tv or latest style? May I ask, at what point will you find contentment? In Philippians 4:11 Paul says, “I have learned to be content.” Contentment isn’t something you arrive at once you get a certain item, join a social group or get an amount of money or fame. Contentment is a decision. That’s why Paul says, “I have learned.” This world always had us pursuing after the latest and the greatest. One of the best places we can come to in our lives, is when we come to the point where we can say to this world, “no, I don’t need that, that’s nice but I have enough, I am content.” Whether it’s a hamburger, fries, and soft drink in a cute little box with a prize or the latest must have item, learn to say, “I can be Happy without a Happy Meal.
There is only one book that I ever remember my dad reading. I’d see it open on the kitchen table during his devotion or laying open on his lap as he was preparing for his next sermon. In pictures you’d see it proudly tucked under his arm. The Bible was his strength. It was priceless to him. His Bible is etched in my memory, and its left a profound impression on my life. With Father’s Day approaching I began to think about his Bible. I began the search to find out which of my brothers or sisters had inherited his brown, leather Bible, worn from many hours of reading and teaching from it. Most thought my oldest brother was the lucky recipient. It wasn’t him. We went down the line from the oldest to the youngest; all eleven of us were asked. I was devastated to find out no one knew what had happened to his Bible nor did any of them have it in their possession. I was anxious to see how marked up it was and to look at the worn pages. I wanted to see if he had written along the margins. Unfortunately, his Bible is gone. Unless a miracle happens, we will never see it again, except for in pictures. As we celebrate this Father’s Day, if you were asked, what is your favorite book, what would your answer be? With all the amazing books out there, let it always be said that your Bible is your most treasured asset. Don’t let it go missing. You will never regret it and hopefully your kids will treasure it when your life has ended and say, “my dad loved this book the most.” To my hero, my dad, thank you for leaving an example of loving the Bible, and leaving me memories that will last the rest of my life.
The woods at the Hudson home are silent. We have been blessed and highly favored. Why? Because while many here in Indiana are dealing with the singing cicadas, thus far, we have not. The cicada invading Indiana is the 17-year variety, and I guess, because they only show up every 17 years, they’ve chosen to be quite the nuisance. Since our woods have been silent, we’ve taken a few “Fishers field trips,” where it is VERY obvious when you’ve found the little critters. You instantly hear a sound that boarders somewhere between screeching of fingernails on a chalk board and a cat getting its tail stepped on. One other thing we noticed is that their eyesight isn’t too keen. They fly everywhere, and into anything, including your face, car windshield, and of course, any open window or door. To those who are reading this, know the racket and intrusion, will soon be over. By early July the little darlings will be gone for another 17 years. Cicada season brings an important question. What do you do when a “season” hits your life? You endure. Persevere. You hang on to the words of Solomon who said, “to everything there is a beginning and an ending.” To everyone who is going through a “season,” hang on! Gods got you, you will make it through. It may seem like the noise of life is excruciating and the intrusions are more than you can bare, but just keep believing and trusting in God. Stay on your knees and in the Book. He will see you through. Matthew 24:13 says it well, “but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” My solution for surviving your season may seem simple, but like dealing with cicadas, you really don’t have any other choice, save getting some good ear plugs and keeping your windows closed.
“It was on fire when I laid down on it,” that was the man’s response when asked by an investigator about the fire that had ravaged his home. His response to the investigator begs for a follow-up question, why would you lay down in a bed that was on fire? The follow-up question leaves room for the imagination to go wild as for the response you might get back. I was really tired. I didn’t think I’d get burned. It was just a small fire. Whatever the response, there is no good reason for laying down on a bed that is on fire. While we laugh at the story, in reality, many of us do things that don’t make sense. Yards away from the Promised Land, after experiencing miracle after miracle for two months, the children of Israel reject God and meander in the wilderness for 40 years. That is a “it was on fire when I laid down on it” moment. Judas, chosen to spend three- and one-half years with Jesus, God with us, watches as Jesus opens blinded eyes, deaf ears and raises the dead to life and decides to betray him for 30 pieces of silver. Definitely a “it was on fire when I laid down on it” moment. What choices are you making now that the future will make it obvious that they were unwise? Putting almost everything ahead of being faithful to God’s house, thinking it won’t make that much of a difference, that it’s not that dangerous. Investing in our kids’ extra-curricular endeavors while not valuing the importance of knowing God, Biblical doctrine and experiencing His presence. Dabbling in things that take us away from our sensitivity to God and His presence and thinking, I won’t get burned. A simple suggestion today. Don’t lay down in something that is burning.
Remembering and protecting the past is an important aspect of securing the future. If a society doesn’t protect where it’s come from and pass down what they’ve experienced, it can quickly lose its values and its way. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about the current climate in our country. History and history books are being rewritten, historical landmarks destroyed and cancel culture is taking America down a dangerous and destructive road. America is not the first culture to lose its way. Joshua 4 describes a moment after Israel had just experienced the miraculous. God had parted the Jordan River and Israel had miraculously crossed into the Promised Land. After the crossing, Joshua does something interesting. He instructs the leaders to go back into the riverbed and gather the largest stones for a memorial. The memorial was to serve as a reminder to future generations who wouldn’t remember or didn’t experience God’s miraculous work. Unfortunately, it’s just a generation or two later that a tragic epithet is written of Israel, “there was no king in Israel and every man did what was right in his own eyes.” A once feared and powerful nation became a cesspool of immorality and political correctness, that plunged into despair and misery. What happened? How did their society change so quickly? It wasn’t a powerful adversary or tragic event, it simply happened when a people forgot God, His house and His principles. They became consumed with success, status and social acceptance and in the process forgot to protect and teach about their past. The miraculous, memorial and memories all disappeared like a vapor. Memorial Day is more than the Indy 500 and the unofficial start of summer. It’s a reminder to remember. Remember our foundations and our past. Remember the fight and those who fought. Remember God and our values. It’s remembering to protect the future.
Today as we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, I ask one thing. Lord, do it again. We live in a time where culture is divided, violence is out of control and immorality is celebrated. Humanity has no cure for what ills our nations and the world. Government cannot legislate the problems away. Education cannot solve the issues by teaching. There is one solution for our world. A move of the Holy Spirit. It has to come through people who will be like the 120 who patiently waited in the Upper Room for the promise. People who are willing to sacrifice their time, give up activities and personal desires and agendas and seek the face of God. Pentecost was not a religion, organization or cult, it was a sovereign move of God, promised by Jesus just before ascending into heaven. It was not fabricated, hyped up by music or manipulated by masterful wordsmiths. It was a “suddenly” that came to desperate people crying out to God. It was a room filled with men and women of all social standings and its initial outpouring was so multicultural that it was heard in 14 languages. There were no fences, no clicks and no limitations. It fell on political figures, rich, poor, educated and uneducated. It crossed ethnic backgrounds; Jews, Greeks, Egyptians, Romans and spread throughout the world. So powerful was the move that in Acts 17 they said, “these are they who have turned the world upside down.” That is what we need today. A Pentecost that turns the world upside down, or I would say, right side up. How does it happen? It’s as simple as it was 2000 years ago. Seeking God above anything else, making prayer a priority, asking God to move on our nation and pour out the Spirit. Acts 2:39 says, the promise was for all. The only question is, are we desperate enough yet?
Spring! Go to Lowe’s or any home and garden shop, and if you’re lucky enough to find a parking place, you can count on a long line once you find your plants and flowers. Whether it’s tulips, trees or tomatoes, this is the time when people are getting them in the ground. Planting tulips? Expect beautiful hues of reds, purples and pink petals. Plant an apple, peach or cherry tree, and in time, you will enjoy some fresh fruit. Get the garden growing and soon tomatoes, cucumbers and summer squash will be on your dinner table. When we plant, we plant with expectations. Flowers with no petals, fruit trees with no fruit and a garden with no red ripe Indiana tomato is just not acceptable. As we celebrate Spring, be reminded that the same laws of sowing and reaping that applies to plants and flowers apply when it comes to what we plant in our lives and families. If we plant unfaithfulness in bible reading, prayer and attending God’s house, expect our kids to do the same. Be faithful in devotion, a worshipper at church and serve others and watch your kids flourish spiritually. Be a person who gossips, is sarcastic and negative and you will find those are the type of people you will attract. Be a person who encourages, shows grace and extends mercy and you will find when you need the same it will be in abundance. A word to the wise, plant well both in your garden and in your life. Plant your flowers and plants in good soil and plant your life in God’s Word. Keep your plants watered and your life saturated with prayer. Then, in time, you will see beautiful flowers and plants in your yard and a spirit of peace and joy in your heart.
Coming from a family of eleven there wasn’t much time for personal attention from mom. One evening she was left in the car, her dad got up the next morning, left for work and when she woke up, she found herself in a parking lot trying to find her dad. She was 18 when her dad left this life, cancer took him away in the prime of his life. Soon after his passing she jetted off to college in California and never looked back. So, when she became a mom, she didn’t exactly have the perfect blueprint of what it took to be a great mom. But like most other areas of her life, she took it on with passion and grace. She would rise early for prayer, and by the time her kids got up, their clothes were laid out and there was a hot breakfast waiting for them. She was a part of their school activities, went on field trips and eventually worked in the schools where her kids were attending just to be close. Many days hot chocolate chip cookies and a cold glass of milk were waiting when her kids got home. The kids loved her amazing dinners and knew there would always be time to talk about their highs, lows and funnies. She made life fun. Whether a water slide in the back yard, a bike ride or some new fun place to experience, she made it happen for her kids. Now that she is older and her daughter is married, I watch as her daughter tries to emulate her. Her daughter has a blueprint and wants to be just like her, and her son longs to find a wife that reminds him of her. Today I honor our first lady and mom, Mary Hudson. Thank you for your example to our kids and the church you serve. Proverbs 31:29 says it well, “Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.”
His name is Fred. Though I have never seen him, Fred has been a part of the Hudson family for years. We really don’t know how he got his name or where he came from, he just showed up one day. We’ve been amazed by Fred’s knowledge and expertise in so many areas. Through the years my mom, sister and I often heard dad and Fred having conversations. Fred helped dad with projects in the garage, yard and mini barn. Fred solved lawn mower issues, assisted in installing fences and helped with landscaping. Sometimes I wonder what my dad would have done without Fred, would projects have gotten completed, cars fixed, or fences put up? Now some clarity about Fred. The reason none of us have ever seen Fred is because he doesn’t exist. Its dad talking to himself when he’s working on projects. We don’t know why we named him Fred, it just seemed to fit. And though he is not real, he has definitely been a help to our family. Fred has been dad’s lifelong helper. He’s got him through tough moments, gave him clarity on projects and answers when he was about the give up. In John 14:16, Jesus tells His disciples that when He ascends into heaven, He will send a helper. That help is the Holy Spirit, it will come to give us understanding, truth and bring things to remembrance when we need it. Jesus tells his disciples that His Spirit just won’t be with us, but in us forever. When we don’t have silver and gold, we’ve got the Spirit. When we don’t have words, we have the Spirit. When we can’t see our way through, we have the Spirit. May I encourage you to embrace the Spirit, lean on it and ask for His help. As I reflected on our life with Fred, I realized how much Fred was like the Holy Spirit. The only difference? The Spirit is real and always there to lead, guide and give us help as we walk through this life. Be full of the Spirit. Live in the Spirit.
It had started out as a quiet morning. I was doing some reading when Mary’s phone rang. It was our next-door neighbor, and I could hear the panic in her voice as she spoke with Mary. I was quickly handed the phone and before I could get a word out, she frantically screams, I need you to come over, my dog has brought a squirrel in the house. I quickly grabbed a small box and spade and headed over to her house, trying to formulate a mental plan of how I was going to get the squirrel out. When I arrive, the door is open, panic is on her face and she is screaming, “he’s taken it upstairs, he’s taken it to my daughters’ room.” I headed up the stairs, trying to navigate a home I had never been in, reluctantly looking for a dog and a squirrel. Finally finding the room, I’m confronted with a dog laying on her daughters’ bed with the squirrel in his mouth. Needless to say, it’s not a pretty picture and its evident the dog is not letting go of the squirrel. Our neighbor is now screaming at decibels that are near fire alarm level, I realize the box and spade are not an option and somehow, I’ve got to get the dog to take the squirrel outside. By the grace of God, the word “treat” comes to mind and as soon as I say it, I have the dog’s attention. He quickly bolts off the bed and follows me down the stairs and out the door. Success! The squirrel has left the house and I am forever a hero to our neighbor. Later, reflecting on the event I thought how the event mirrors how we should react when something unpleasing to God gets in our life. We should have the same panic and same attitude. Get it out and get it out now! No option! No compromise!
Stop the rush! Enjoy the journey! Too often we are so hurried to get to our destination that we miss invaluable experiences along the way. Recently we took a day trip, no particular destination, our only goal, to find a good lunch place. After finding a good taco joint, we meandered home. We had the rest of the afternoon, so nothing was off limits. We went by a church where we were nearly elected 20 years ago. We were amazed by the church updates but more so by the growth of the area. A restaurant that had set in the middle of a wheat field was now surrounded by urban growth. Continuing the journey home, we saw a sign that said Henryville, the name intrigued us, so we got off to explore. It was a wasted ten minutes, but from here forward we won’t wonder about what is in Henryville. Later, we saw two signs near Scottsville, one said Midwest’s largest McDonalds and the other was about goat milk and soap. So, we got off, we drove past the McDonald’s and wasn’t impressed. The goat farm was about a 2-acre area that was closed for the day, but we saw enough to understood we hadn’t missed much and didn’t have to come back. One might say we wasted a day, but we look at it differently. The “enjoy the journey” moment caused us to reflect on how God shapes our lives even when we’re not totally aware. It made us ask questions we would have likely never asked? What would life looked life if we had been elected there? What would have happened in Fishers, would there be a church at 11616 today? How would our family and ministry be different? All questions that got asked because we stopped the rush and enjoyed the moment. A simple suggestion today. Get off the hamster wheel once in a while and enjoy the journey. At the very least you’ll learn you don’t have to stop at Henryville.
It doesn’t make sense. Ever said that? What doesn’t make sense today, might tomorrow or in a week, and most likely will in a year or two. Larnelle Harris sang a song entitled, In it After All. The first verse says, “All of those moments I spent crying, when something inside of me was dying, I didn’t know that You heard me each time I called, you had a reason for those trials, it seems I grew stronger every mile, now I know You were in it after all.” How true those words were a week after Easter. Friday brought panic, Saturday brought silence and Sunday brought joy, but time brought clarity. On Friday and Saturday nothing made sense and on Sunday they were too overwhelmed with the unimaginable, but the further they got away from Easter Sunday the more the whole event made3 sense. The disciple’s tears are now dry, their shattered hopes are being put back together and their faith is stronger. They have seen Him, touched Him and had dinner with Him. Soon their brokenness will become boldness. Time does amazing things when we allow God to do His work in us. What we feel is meant to destroy us often is the foundation that allows us the stand when future storms come our way. A cross and a crucifixion can change the composition of your life if you allow it. Without the cross there is no ascension, no upper room and no eternal hope. What are you walking through that doesn’t make sense? Give it some time. Just as the pain of the disciples was a part of the process to bring them power, what you are going through has purpose too. Just give it some time.
Silence. It can be awkward, difficult and confusing. It’s the feeling a widow or widower has the first night after the love of their life has breathed their last breath and they are all alone. It’s the feeling parents experience when they have had a house full of kids, watched them grow from infant to adult, taken them to band, cheered them on in their sports, had them around the dinner table and the last one has left the home and you now come home to an empty house. As a spouse, have you ever got the silent treatment? Often, you’re not sure why, and silently you are asking, did I leave my socks on the table again? Did I say something I wasn’t supposed to at the dinner party? The silence lets you know something is definitely wrong. It’s a first date or walking into a meeting where no one knows anyone and there’s that awkward moment when no one knows what to say or do. Whatever the scenario, silence begs for something to happen, anything. A friend to call the widow. A grandchild to enter the scene of a parent. Or a spouse thinking, please, let me know what I did to create this silence. That is what Saturday was like for those lived through Jesus’ Passion Week. They will survive the hurt, the actions and events of Friday and once they understand, experience and grasp the miraculous resurrection on Sunday, they will celebrate, but the silence of Saturday is overwhelming. On Saturday is when we deal with our own failures of yesterday. On Saturday is when we feel the chill of darkness, that it won, and we lost. On Saturday we live in the real possibility that our Hope is dead, and life will never be the same. On Saturday we feel as though God has failed us. Living in a Saturday? Take heart in Easter! That as impossible as things might feel today, you may be just be a few hours or days away from a life changing moment, an Easter, a moment that makes your life better than you could ever imagine!
We tend to set low expectations for God. It happens when we attempt to make our plans, God’s plans. Palm Sunday is a textbook example. As people lined the street that morning, one might sense an atmosphere of high expectation. Palm branches, rugs and cloaks covered the street. Screams and cheers of Hosannah are heard along the parade route. Jesus had spoke of His kingdom, and their assumption on this day, was that He was bringing His kingdom to earth. They knew the significance of a person riding into Jerusalem on a colt; an honor given only to dignitaries. In their eyes, Jesus’ Triumphal entry was the answer to years of hopes and prayers. The oppression, abuse and rule of the Roman government was going to end, Jesus, the man of miracles, was about to set up His earthly kingdom. No more Roman rule. No more taxes to Caesar. Little did they realize how trivial their expectations were. Palm Sunday was not about a day of freedom from Rome, but about a day that would set-in motion freedom from sin, death, hell and the grave. Palm Sunday was not about God solving earthly problems, but eternal issues. Still today we undervalue our expectations for God. Israel wants deliverance from Pharaoh, God gives them a new culture and land. The lame man at the Gate Beautiful wants money, God uses His disciples to give him a miracle. Too often we get frustrated when God doesn’t answer our prayers our way. We tend to focus and pray longing for earthly issues to be solved, while God is focused on our eternal destination. Palm Sunday. I invite you to see God’s big picture; to see God and His will differently. To pray differently. Surrender your small expectations for His big plans.
A seismic world altering moment was just two weeks away. Yet, at this moment, after bringing Lazarus back to life, no one can fathom what is about to take place. The tears of joy are too overwhelming and the miracle to great. His disciples are convinced that Jesus is going to set up an earthly kingdom and can’t wait to see their place of importance. Not only had Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead but healed ten lepers of their leprosy. Jesus is immensely popular. Yet, in two weeks, the disciples will deny Him, the crowd turn on Him and He will take his last earthly breath. A lot can happen in two weeks, more than we could ever imagine. The point? Whatever you are walking through, whatever is overwhelming you, know that it can change in so quickly. In an instant, a man blind sees, a woman with a blood issue for 12 years is healed and a cripple from birth walks. Needing a miracle? Looking for a glimmer of hope? Pray one more prayer. Believe one more day. Look no further than the possibilities in Jesus. Keep believing. Keep expecting. You may be just a few days or weeks from a mind-blowing, life altering, forever changing encounter.
In Acts 19 there is a story that we as Christians should take note of. The dialogue opens with a few men acting as if they know Jesus and have His power, trying to cast out an evil spirit. Hindsight allows us to see the sham that is taking place. Speaking to the evil spirit that possesses the man, the powerless man says, “I solemnly implore and charge you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” The phrasing of the man reeks of something missing. The response of the evil spirit to the powerless Christian imposter says it all. The spirit says, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” With that question the spirit physically attacks the man. The spiritually empty man runs from the house in fear with wounds and stripped naked. This story shouts a warning to people who profess to know Jesus but have no relationship with Him. Its people who act the part and say the right words, but their life is more symbolism than substance. Know this, those living symbolic Christianity eventually get exposed. You may not be assaulted or stripped naked physically, but an empty life eventually becomes visible to those around you. Paul warns Timothy of this in 2 Timothy 3 when he tells him to watch out for those “who have a form of godliness but deny its power.” Today I challenge you to be more than professing Christians, to be a person who has the true power of God. What does it require? An authentic relationship with Jesus and the power of the Spirit that was promised by Jesus before His ascension and experienced by the early followers in the book of Acts. Who are you? A professing Christian or a Christian who is living in the power of the Spirit. Regardless of what you say, your life will expose the truth.
Today, we reflect back and celebrate 17 years since Life inception. Churches don’t start at garage sales, but this one did. The garage sale thrusted us into a ladies Bible study and a once-a-week VBS. After a year and a few meetings at the Goddard School on 116th, Life launched on March 7, 2004. Mary and I had little pastoral training, but lots of faith, and though Gentry and Risa were seven and five, they seemed to have just as much faith. We lived on, and still do, the words of Gamaliel in Acts 5; “if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.” With this as our mantra and faith that believed anything was possible, we went after Fishers with abandonment. We introduced people to Bagels and Bunnies, crazy VBS’s and the first Breakfast with Santa. We were in every parade, had booths at Fishers Freedom Festivals and in 2007, brought the Strawberry Festival to Fishers. If we could imagine it, we would try it. As much as we worked, we prayed, fasted and reached for broken people in need of Jesus with even more fierceness. The past few years have been challenging; a few losses, some hurts, and this past year was especially hard as everything came to a grinding halt, but we’ve stayed in the fight. Let’s hope the Bible numerologist have it right. They say the number seventeen symbolizes complete victory. If there has ever been a moment when it would be good to see complete victory, it’s now. Today, we reflect back, but only with hearts that look forward in faith. We’ve planted, watered and today we are anticipating that God will bring an indescribable increase and victory!
His name is Judah. He comes from good stock. David and Keah Cuautle have been with us at Life from its inception. Wednesday, after bible study Judah ran up to me, we fist bump, and he says, ‘my name is in the Bible.” Walking down the aisle we continue to talk and sensing he is really wanting to connect; I sat down and continued the conversation. He continues telling me about his name, he lets me know that the tribe he is named after, nearly wiped out the entire tribe of Dan. He was very impressed by this fact. I asked, “did you know Judah led Israel into battle? You’re a leader.” His response was classic. He said, “well, I don’t know about that, not too many people seem to listen to me.” I followed up with, “when you’re at school and it’s time for recess and you suggest something, do people do it?” Now seeming rather frustrated and agitated, he responds with, “well I’m always telling people what to do but no one seems to listen.” I couldn’t resist, it just came out, I said, “welcome to leadership Judah, welcome to leadership.” By this point he was finished and off to another person. I hear his next conversation and it starts the same way, “hi, my name is Judah, my name is in the bible…” So, what’s my point? Don’t miss important people and moments. I nearly missed the moment, but a small voice said, stop and listen. I’m glad I did. He got to share something very important about himself with me and I got a reminder of the challenges of leadership. Simply put, don’t miss big moments that seem small, you might miss something important.
Monday was a glorious day. In fact, it’s been a pretty good month. Snow, snow and more snow. As I write, over a foot of snow is still on the ground. There are great spiritual lessons in snow. First, snow has no prejudice. It falls everywhere and on everyone. Doesn’t matter your economic, religious or social status. Snow falls. Second, snow covers everything. It covers average and beautiful landscaped yards. Snow covers sidewalks and streets, leaves that weren’t raked and branches that have fallen. Snow finds every knuck and covers every cranny. Finally, the obvious, snow makes everything white. Gray, green, brown, regardless the color, snow turns it white. Isaiah says, “though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow.” What an amazing word picture when we put into context what a snow does. Jesus’ blood, like snow, has no prejudice. It covers everyone. No bias, no discrimination. Second, like snow, Jesus’ blood covers everything, no issue is beyond his blood. Whether a lie, a moral failure or something worse, Jesus’s blood covers it. Finally, Jesus’ red blood turns our sins white. We become justified and clean. He gives us a clean slate. His blood takes our sins and makes them as distant as the east is from the west. The old song says, thank God for the blood, thank God for the blood, it washes white as snow. I’m glad I can live in the power of His work and not in my futile efforts to save myself. Maybe that’s why I love snow so much, because it reminds me that His blood makes my life look like a fresh snow.
It’s hard to imagine that a mere hundred years ago, 90% of Americans were farmers. Today that number is 2%. The transformation becomes even more impactive when we assess how the cultural shift has impacted our lives. A hundred years ago electricity and lights were luxuries, only a few had ever seen a car, and the idea of air travel was a fantasy. Winter would slow nearly everyone. Fields would go dormant, cold and snow blew in, and life would slow. Winter was a time to pause; to read, reflect and bond with our spouse and kids. As culture shifted, we lost our pace. Gone was the winter pause and in its place came a harried pace, high anxiety and little time to pause or spend quality time with our spouse or kids. Today, the average couple spends 23 seconds in meaningful conversation, and most of our kids grow up in daycare centers. We are seeing and feeling the effects of a society that is stuck on turbo and in desperate need of a pause. In the book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, Jon Mark Comer list 20 things we should do to hit the pause button. Here are ten on this Valentine’s Day to help you regain your pace and reconnect with those who are most important.
- Intentionally drive in the slow lane at the speed limit. Eliminate the hurry.
- Get rid of all unnecessary apps. Only use your phone for essential purposes.
- Put your smart device to bed when kids go to bed.
- Don’t let news and social media set your emotional equilibrium.
- Regain time by only viewing social media on a desktop computer.
- Walk slower. One of the best ways to slow down our body is to slow our pace.
- Don’t sell your time to TV. Grab a book regularly. Go for walks
- Take a day once in a while and intentionally embrace silence.
- Pray and meditate on scripture and the things of God.
- Cook your own food and take time to enjoy dinners around the table.
In Matthew 7 Jesus speaks of two men who built houses. One dug deep and built on rock, while the other carelessly built his home on sand. Inevitably, a storm came and both houses were battered. Once the storm passed, the house built on rock was standing, while the house built on sand was destroyed. Jesus’ premise. Storms come to everyone. Those who build on strong foundations survive. It’s critical that we have a strong relationship with God to survive storms. Because storms come, God had the Hebrew people wear scriptures on their clothing to remind them of important principles, and He instituted the Passover as a reminder of how He provided their escape from Egypt. Now it’s 2021 and we face new challenges. Spiritual darkness is rampant, many are distorting God’s Word and we’re living in a world that is on information overload. How do we survive? Build your life on a strong foundation. Jesus called himself the chief cornerstone and said His Word was forever settled in heaven. That’s where we must start; by getting back to the basics and owning our relationship with Jesus and His Word. That is what The Search is about, finding ownership and getting understanding of God’s Word. Worship is energetic and emotionally charged, but like a good meal, it quickly dissipates, and we wait for the next refill. Inspirational messages are wonderful, they lift our faith, inspires us to love, show mercy, and embrace grace, but we need more. We need substance, foundation, structure. How does that happen? We must read God’s Word, understand, study, pray and live it. The Search. This is where it begins. This is where we take ownership, this is where we start building a strong foundation. This is where we say as David did, “your word have I hid in my heart.”
This past week in Tampa, Mary and I were enjoying a balcony breakfast of fruit and oatmeal. As we were eating, I threw three or four small blueberries off the balcony onto the parking lot below. I had hoped that a few of the birds might swoop down and snatch them up, but after a few minutes, nothing had happened, and we had kind of forgot about them. Suddenly, without warning birds came from everywhere. We’re not talking three or four birds, but 20 or 25 birds. My immediate thought was wow! Those three or four berries caused this? I was quite proud. It was a few seconds later that I realized it wasn’t my three or four berries, it was bread from above. Someone above us was throwing handfuls of bread off their balcony, and the birds weren’t drawn to my berries, but to the bread from above. What a moment of truth! Often, we feel like our work accomplishes so much; that our efforts, talents and skills make all the difference when actually, it’s His bread from above. God says cast the nets on the other side of the boat, we simply obey, and Jesus nearly sinks our boats with blessings. It’s not our fishing ability, but His blessing. Paul says it well when he says, “some plant, others water, but it is God that gives the increase.” What Paul was telling us is what we experienced that morning at breakfast. The possibility and the power is in God. That it is God that makes the difference. That God loves to take our empty vessels and small lunches and fill them and multiply them. The psalmist understood this when he said, “if it had not been for the Lord who was on our side.” God, let us regularly be reminded that it is because you are with us and for us that we are blessed and favored.
John 4 is where we find Jesus setting his sights on helping a fragile and apprehensive Samaritan woman. The story opens as Jesus arrives at Jacob’s well, alone. He has sent His disciples to get bread. The setting is important, because if he isn’t alone, He likely doesn’t have a chance to have a conversation with the woman. It’s not that the woman isn’t broken, she is. It’s just that she is jaded and skeptical because of the bruises of life. She’s been hurt by five different husbands and the man that’s now a part of her life isn’t her husband. As the conversation begins, Jesus faces an emotional wall that is as high and thick as a prison wall. Trying to break through the icy stare, Jesus asks for water. He is met with a why? Why are you, a Jew, asking me, a Samaritan for a glass of water. Don’t you know your type doesn’t talk to people like me. When Jesus offers her water she skeptically asks, how are you going to give me water, you have nothing to draw with. When Jesus explains it’s spiritual water, she judgingly questions, are you greater than our father Jacob? Every attempt Jesus makes to help her is met with a jaded and calloused response. Jesus conversation with the Samaritan woman reminds me of the difficulty we run into when we try to share the good news; the news that Jesus can bless and impact their life. It’s met with the same skepticism and jaded response. Why? They’ been hurt and they don’t trust. How do we overcome their pain? The same way Jesus did. Keep loving, showing compassion and offering mercy. Hopefully, at some moment, the walls crack, the heart softens, and the love of God comes pouring over their heart like a spring shower.
Jeremiah 29:11 God says, “for I know the plans I have for you… plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” If we take this verse literally, God has a specific plan for our life, and it is for good and is to give us a future that is filled with hope. If God has a plan for us, what hinders it from coming to pass? Satan, people, situations or circumstances? No. The biggest issue impeding God’s plan from happening in our life is us. Jesus lets us know His ultimate goal for all humanity in Luke 19:10 when he said, “I came to seek and save those who are lost.” That’s it. That’s the reason He robed himself in flesh, lived with the humanity He created, died on a cross, resurrected and ascended into heaven, so that everyone can be saved. But is that it? Is that His only plan for our lives? No, I believe God has a specific plan for each of us, but how? It begins by getting in alignment with God’s Spirit, getting in the flow of His purpose. For that to happen it requires that we have a hunger for His will to be accomplished in our life. It requires continually humbling, submitting and yielding to His leadership. It means being led by the Spirit and walking in the Spirit. It means as John said in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Regularly, daily, we must pray that prayer. God let Your plans, Your will increase and let mine decrease. Help me to yield my plans, ideas and concepts to yours. What awaits? Joy. Happiness. Calm. Diminishing fear and anxiety. A peace that passes all understanding. Get in the flow. Get in alignment with His Spirit and His plan. It will be life changing.
What do we do when there is a forecast of an impending snowstorm? We head to the grocery store. We load up on bread, milk, eggs and other essentials. We top off the car with fuel, head home with a trunk full of groceries, prepared for the storm. Wake up to a forecast that says rain and we grab a jacket and an umbrella. Being prepared is vital to surviving a storm, whether rain, snow or the storms of life. Why fast? Because storms are coming. It’s not a maybe or possibility, it’s not the question of if, but when will the storms hit. This year there will be unexpected job losses, sickness, emotional hurt, life disappointments and difficulties we don’t anticipate. Knowing storms are in the future, what do we do? We prepare. We pray. We fast. We make our relationship with God a priority. That’s how we prepare spiritually. Jesus went into the wilderness, full of the Spirit, but comes out in the power of the Spirit. What happened in the wilderness? He was tempted. He fasted. He came out ready for all the challenges lie ahead. Paul was converted on the Damascus Road, but before he ever preached a message, God sent him to an Arabian desert. What happened in the desert? He prayed and fasted. He was being prepared for the impending storms; shipwrecks, stonings, beatings, persecution and jail, all storms that lay in front of Paul. How did he survive? Spiritual preparation. What does 2021 hold? God only knows, but one thing I do know, there will be storms. Are you preparing? How we prepare today will determine how we handle the storms and if we will survive. Fast today because storms are coming.