Winter, we sense it coming; for many it is with dread, but there’ nothing we can do to stop it. There’s a chill in the air, leaves are falling and soon there will be a blanket of snow covering the ground. A quick look at the landscape and it would appear that many trees and plants have died, but in reality, they are very much alive. Life is no longer visible, but know, growth is happening. While many hate it, Winter is important to life. The best time to plant trees and plants, is the end of Fall and the beginning of Winter. While we love the spectacle of Spring with the flowering trees and shrubs, love the spade in the Summer and marvel at the fireworks of color in the Fall without Winter none of it would happen. It’s what happens in Winter, that makes every other season possible. Roots grow deeper, wider and stronger, stamina for the heat of Summer is developed and the eventual growth of the trunk and branches all happen in the Winter. While we see nothing, in reality everything is happening.
May I suggest that each of us need “Winter” in our lives, times when it may appear that we are dormant but in reality, great growth is happening. Maybe you sense a Winter coming or you’re going through a Winter right now, often it doesn’t make sense and others may misjudge your season. It’s the “Winter times” of life when it may appear that we are dying, that nothing is happening in our life or that we are “just existing.” In reality, your likely in one of the greatest seasons of your life; your growing deeper in faith, stronger in your relationship with God and developing spiritual energy that will bring an explosion of growth when the Spring of life returns. It’s in the Winter when we lose the old, grow deep and prepare for a new season. Let me encourage you to embrace the Winter times in your life. Kings had Winter homes where they retreated, Paul paused his evangelism for Winter and scripture even records that Jesus dealt with Winter. Are you in a Winter? Settle in. Build a fire, grab a blanket and get a good book. Enjoy the pause, embrace the rest and take time to grow deeper in God’s Word, prayer and your walk with God. No need to worry and fret, Spring will come, but only when God says your Winter is over.
As the drought has taken over here in central Indiana I’ve watched how trees responded to the lack of water. Basically, there has been four responses. Some have dropped their leaves to protect the leaves that remain, others have held their leaves but reserved more water for the base causing the top leaves to begin the change color, then there are those who have held water in reserve and have been able to protect all their foliage; no leaves lost, no color change. Finally, there are trees who didn’t have any moisture reserved, they lost their color, lost their leaves, became brittle and died. What made the difference? All had ample rain through most of the year and all enjoyed a very mild August. If the trees didn’t have someone watering them it came down to two major factors, preparation and location. Some trees absorbed enough water for the dry times and some trees were planted close to a water source. If those two factors weren’t in place then leaves fell, color changed and sadly, in some cases, some died.
In many ways, our Christian life mirrors the seasons of life. There will be times of extreme heat and cold, there will be times where there is plenty of rain and times of drought. How we survive those seasons is largely dependent on two issues; our preparation and where we have planted ourselves. Recalling the parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins in Matthew 25, it’s important to remember that they all were virgins, they all had lamps and they all had oil. The difference was preparation, five anticipated and prepared for the potential of a delay or problems and the others didn’t. Often the difference between those who survive spiritual droughts and those who don’t is simply being prepared. The second great issue to surviving spiritual drought is staying near the life source. In John 6, when things got hard for the followers of Jesus, many stopped following him, after they departed Jesus turned and asked His 12 Disciples, will you also go away? I love Simon Peter’s response, “to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” We must understand that regardless of how bad or difficult life gets or how dry our faith becomes; Jesus is still our life source.
Feeling dry, burnt out and weak in faith? Every storm has its end; every battle comes to a close. Be prepared for the whole journey and remember it often doesn’t go the way we have it planned Stay close to Jesus, He provided mana to the children of Israel for forty years in the wilderness, bread to Elijah, oil that continued to a poor widow and food for 5000 men plus women and children with one little boys lunch. He is your life source! You will survive!
Month of the Family 2017. Preparing the keynote for the month one man’s life came to mind, David. It was not David’s talent, skills, ability or accomplishments that grabbed my attention, it was David’s hunger and desire to know God and be in His presence. That hunger, desire and passion brought him a lineage that would bring the savior. Acts 13:22 says, “…I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after my own heart.” David didn’t seek fame, education, riches, kingdoms or even to reach lost souls, David sought the heart of God. David longed for a relationship with God, to know Him, His heart. He searched for Him, wrote songs and sang about Him, and prayed to Him with a desperate desire to know Him and to be in His presence. That kind of life brings blessings, favor and possibilities for generations that follow in your lineage.
My desire is to have a legacy that seeks God. If I could ask anything of God it would be that He would give me the promise that me, my family and my lineage would have the following four passions in our Spiritual DNA until eternity. First, that my lineage would pursue a relationship with Jesus with all their heart, mind and soul; that they would have hunger for a relationship with Jesus, to know Him, not religion or doctrine, but Him. That they would desire His presence, to know Him more than anything or anyone. Second, that they would have a passionate desire for prayer and the Word of God; that prayer and reading the Word would be about knowing Him. Third, I would ask that my lineage would have a knowledge, desire and passion to be filled with His Spirit with evidence of speaking in a language they do not know. That unknown language confirms in a way that no religion or man can that God has come inside of them and will, if they allow, transform them and translate them when the trumpet sounds. Finally, that my lineage would always believe as the Hebrews of the Old Testament were taught, “The Lord is our God, the Lord is one [the only God]!” (Duet. 6:4 AMP). That God is the Father, He is a son, He has and is a Spirit and His name is Jesus who has all power and authority. To understand, that through the name of Jesus, anything they ask is possible by the power and authority that is in His name.
What will your lineage look like? Will it be filled with people who were educated, great in sports, that had good jobs, lived in a nice home and drove expensive cars or were simply good people? My challenge this month is that you take on the responsibility of leaving a spiritual legacy. A legacy that will lead generations to eternity in Heaven. Return to God, make His house your highest priority. This month begin a new journey, fill your life and home with prayer, spiritual songs and seek Him with all your heart, in so doing you may leave a legacy that last until eternity!
Just another day and another prayer meeting. For days, the apostles along with another 500 people had been praying together, but now its day ten and the crowd is smaller now. For many, doubt had crept in and they had chosen to go on with life, no longer believing the words of Jesus, “go tarry in Jerusalem until you are filled with power.” Outside, festive plans were being made; another bountiful harvest meant a joyous celebration of Pentecost, a time to give thanks for God’s blessings on the crops. Jerusalem is a buzz; merchants were seeing dollar signs flash before their eyes and music fills the streets as people from all parts of the world filter in for a time of festivities and celebration.
It’s early, about 9 a.m. Street vendors are setting wares out on the street and commerce is beginning to build when suddenly there is a buzz about a strange happening in a place called the Upper Room. The promise had come, the Spirit had visited those who had remained, about 120 and it was pouring out onto the streets. It was a suddenly moment. Overwhelmed by the events, reports are flying about the city saying those that had been praying in the Upper Room were acting like they had been set on fire! There was also news of men speaking in different languages and unable to explain or communicate about why. Bystanders called them drunk. But this is no drunken stupor, but the beginning of a Spiritual experience that will turn the world upside down and remain a powerful force 2000 years later. The infilling of the Holy Spirit, an experience for their time and every generation thereafter. An experience for every generation; an experience for you and me!
Never underestimate the possibilities of what can happen in one moment in prayer…it might just change your world!
Just in case you forgot; God provided a lamb for Abraham and Isaac, a way of escape from Egypt for the Children of Israel, a road through the middle of a sea and river for an entire nation, caused walls to fall for Joshua, took 300 men and defeated a massive army, took a shepherd boy and made him king, protected three Hebrew men of faith in a fiery furnace, kept a man safe in a den of lions, turned water into wine, opened deaf ears and blinded eyes, cast out demons, raised dead people and took the keys to death, hell and the grave.
Now, what do you have going on in your life that your God cannot handle? We have a God that is on top of everything! Luke 1:37 says, “For with God nothing [is or ever] shall be impossible.” He never sleeps or slumbers and He is never surprised. He knows the end from the beginning and is the author of all things, including your life! And the great news is, He’s on your side!
My normal mode when writing for Connect is to write something inspirational, but this month I felt led to write about an issue that nearly every person and family is dealing with, our obsession or in some cases, addiction to cell phones. The National Safety Council says that 82% of Americans believe we have an addiction to our cell phones. These numbers should be of great concern and we must be aware that digital devices are impacting our children, families, marriages and society in profound ways, some are obvious, while others will be unknown for years. Digital addiction knows no boundaries; it respects neither rich or poor, educated or uneducated, age, ethnicity nor Christians or non-Christians. Our digital devices have silently seduced us into it grips of self-absorption and because we may be in the same room, office or car with children, family or co-worker, we have been deceived in believing we are connected and building relationships.
When psychologist asked children how they felt about their parents being on their phone an overwhelming majority disliked it. When asked to describe their feelings, they used the words sad, mad, angry and lonely. Some called their parents cell phone the “stupid phone” while others said that their parents phone gave them the sense that they (kids) were “boring.” Our current teenagers are called “screenagers” and millennials are referred to as the “always on” generation because many never turn off their devices. It will be years before we will know the full effect digital devices impact have had on their lives, families and society. It doesn’t take research to see the impact of cell phones on families. The family meal used to be the place of connection. Research has shown that families that ate just one meal together on a regular basis tended to have kids that avoided drugs and alcohol, were better students and had a better chance at success in life. Obviously, those statistics are now skewed. Go to any restaurant and look around. What you will observe at table after table is that where there used to be conversation, there are now faces buried in cell phones; sitting together but totally disconnected. Likewise, it is having a profound impact on marriages. The bedroom, which was once the safe place, the place for romance and intimacy, has become just another internet café or office to work from. One recent study
shows that there has been a strong decline in intimacy in many marriages. Research has concluded that much of it is due to the fact that the privacy and intimacy of the bedroom has been invaded by digital devices; that instead of spending time together in the evening, many couples end their night with thelast communication being a text, on a social media app or doing business work in bed. Studies are also showing that in many relationships the first thing people do in the morning, before showering and before having breakfast, is go for their cell phone. Without realizing it, we are sacrificing the most important relationships in our lives; our spouses, children and family, all in the name of being connected. Below are a few questions that psychologist said to ask to see if you are obsessed or addicted to your phone.
Are you constantly checking any of the following: text, tweets, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
Do you find yourself mindlessly passing time staring with your smartphone even though there might be other alternatives or more productive things to do?
Do you find yourself putting smartphone request; text, email, social media ahead of meeting the needs of those closest to you?
Do you seem to lose track of time and others when on your cell phone?
Do you sleep with your smartphone on, under your pillow or next to your bed regularly?
Do you find yourself viewing and answering texts, tweets, and emails at all hours of the day and night, even when it means interrupting other things or not being involved with others?
Do you feel reluctant to be without your smartphone, even for a short time?
When you leave the house, you always have your smartphone with you and you feel ill-at-ease or uncomfortable when you don’t have it.
When you eat meals, is your cell phone always part of the table place setting?
Is your cell phone the last thing you look at before going to sleep and the first thing you look at when getting up?
When your phone rings, beeps, buzzes, do you feel an immediate and/or intense urge to check for texts, tweets, or emails, updates, etc.?
Do you find yourself mindlessly checking your phone many times a day even when you know there is likely nothing new or important to see?
If you find yourself answering “yes” to many of these questions, please pray and ask God to help you take control of your device or devices. 1 Corinthians 6:12 says, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” Take back your life, don’t be subtly mastered by your device. The most important people in your life are not those that you are connected to on social media or those who are texting or emailing. The most important people in your life is the spouse you said, “I do” too, the kids at your feet and sitting with you in the family room, those who are around your dinner table, riding in your car to practice or to the store. The most important message you can send every day is not the one from your cell phone but the message you send in your bedroom, the dinner table, family room or car. Put away the device, take back your family and take back your life!
Moses was a man born with divine purpose. When Egypt calls for the slaughter of all Hebrew boys, his life is spared, and instead of death, he finds himself growing up in the home of the Pharaoh. His passion for his people becomes his downfall when he kills an Egyptian who is beating a Hebrew and it might appear that his purpose is over as he flees to the wilderness for his life. Confused and dismayed, he is unaware that he is still in God’s divine plan. The loneliness of the wilderness will develop him as a man and is preparing him for more than he can understand in the moment. It is there in the wilderness God calls him to his life’s purpose, to bring God’s people to a land of promise. He will return to Egypt with a clear vision, will experience the miraculous and in one night six million Hebrews leave Egypt. The journey will not be easy, the Egyptians will pursue, people will get disgruntled, but Moses now knows his life’s purpose; save a generation, bring a people to the land of promise. People will rebel, get frustrated, have fear and complain about him, but regardless of what they think or say, he understands his purpose, his calling, he will not be deterred.
While not all of us are called to save a nation I believe we all have divine purpose. Your life here on this earth is not an accident, it’s not trivial, it has a destiny. Will there be frustration, hardship and difficulties? Yes. Will there be people who will ridicule and mock your choices and decision? Yes. But, if you understand your calling, your divine purpose, nothing can deter you from what God has set in your heart. I encourage you today, hang on to those things that God has put in your heart, those dreams, impressions and visions. You may not be sure where you are in the process, but know this, if God has put it in your heart, if you will stay the course, He will do something great through your life. You have divine purpose.
In the book, The Noticer, Andy Andrews writes of a man by the name of Norman Bourlag, who received the Noble Prize for creating a technique that created a hybrid corn that saved the lives of over two million people. Andrews reflects on the possibility that it might have been Henry Wallace, Vice President under Roosevelt that might have saved two million lives because he was the one that asked Norman Bourlag to come up with the process. Andrews then submits that it may have actually been George Washington Carver who saved over two million because he invested and taught Henry Wallace much of what he knew about farming. Finally, Andrews proposes that it may have been a farmer by the name of Moses and his wife Susan who saved two million people because they saved the life of George Washington Carver. What is amazing is most of these people went to their graves never realizing that their one action would eventually impact two million people.
I suggest that many of the biblical hero’s we read likewise had no idea that one act was going to change history. Abraham’s obedience, taking his son up a mountain, would lead him to being called the father of faith. Moses, listening to a small voice coming from a fire, leads people out of Egypt but likely went to his grave feeling like a failure for not getting them into the Promise land. Little did he realize the impact, that his willingness to trust God, would live on for dispensations. Might I suggest that Simon Peter will be stunned by the impact of one message, the message on the Day of Pentecost and that Paul will be overwhelmed by the fact that the letters he was writing trying to straighten out churches that were frustrating him with their inconsistency would end up in the Bible. These men, and so many others in the Bible, simply lived the life that was laid out before them, did what was asked, and were willing to walk and be led by the Spirit.
Like generations before us, we have been given an opportunity to Outlive our Lives. Like those we call heroes of the faith and like farmer Moses and George Washington Carver it is possible that we have been brought to a “such a time as this,” moment. An opportunity to invest in something that will outlive us, something that when we get to heaven will cause us to say, this happened because we gave, because we believed? What is your faith feeling? What is the small still voice saying? Will you Outlive your life? I want to be overwhelmed by what God did with my simple act of faith, obedience and giving. I want to be a part of something that Outlives My Life!
Two men, different dispensations, one desire; the pursuit of God. They worded their desires differently, yet their goal was the same, to know God. David put it this way, “one thing that I desire and that will I seek after…” Paul’s words, “that I may know him…” David and Paul were vastly different. They lived in different cultures and had different life styles. One was a song writer, the other a theologian. David’s desire was not to be a giant slayer, kingdom builder or a man of wealth and fame but simply to know God. I believe this is why he was called a man after God’s own heart. Paul was a spiritual blueblood; a Hebrew, student of Gamliel and a fierce force for the religion of the day. His conversion brought him to a desire he would have never known had he not experienced God on the road to Damascus. His desire was to know God, not build churches, write books or be a theologian. These men stand out in their dispensation, not because of their accomplishments, but because of their unwavering pursuit of God and His presence.
Our backgrounds, culture and the worlds we live in are so different from David and Paul, yet I believe that our desire should be the same, to intimately know, not religion, but God. There are many enticing avenues we can pursue in this world; success, fame, education and wealth, but the greatest quest is the pursuit of God. It doesn’t matter your pedigree, your education or your religious background. It matters not your age, income or social standing, anyone can pursue God. It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been in church, how much we pray or read God’s Word if our purpose isn’t to know God, its meaningless. My goal isn’t a powerful ministry, a big church or being an author or speaker, my desire is to know Him, to seek after Him. As we “build big” in 2017, make the pursuit of God your highest goal.
The action of one person often changes the direction and destiny for many. This is exemplified by God coming to earth robed in flesh, living with the humanity He created, going to the cross and resurrecting. That courageous act changed everything about what we do, who we are and and our eternal destination. The Bible is filled with examples of people who have breakthrough moments that impact cities, nations and generations. Moses breaks through his past failure to lead a nation out of Egypt and changes the destiny of a nation. David breaks through the fear of his brothers and army to lead them to a victory over the Philistines. The three Hebrew children break through the intimidation of idolatry to bring a heathen nation to say, “the Lord, He is God.” Simon Peter breaks through his denial of Christ to preach the message that still lives today and Paul breaks through his theology, experiences the power of the Spirit and establishes churches throughout the world and writes 13 books of the Bible.
These stories are there to give us hope and courage to have our own breakthroughs. What if a wall you’re dealing with comes down, how might it impact you and others? Could it change your entire life? Could it change the destination of future generations in your family? Could a breakthrough in your life change the destiny of Life Connections? We have no idea of what a breakthrough in our life might do for our life, home, church and future generations. We serve the God of the breakthrough! I was inspired by a song I recently heard by Eddie James called “Breakthrough” which is quickly becoming my theme song for 2017. The words say, “walls fall down when I shout through, strongholds break when I pray through, I’m going to praise you, you are the God of the Breakthrough!” The bridge say, “You are the God of the breakthrough of my heart, mind, spirit, soul, weakness, struggle, worship, praise, when I lift and glorify His name, dance and shout.” What a powerful song and testimony. If Moses, David, the Hebrew children, Simon Peter, Paul and a host of witnesses can have breakthrough moments, why can’t we? We serve the God of the breakthrough! Let me encourage someone with barriers, walls, past failures, fear and discouragements; you are one day away from a breakthrough. What do you need to do? Pray, worship, be faithful, be obedient, yield and I absolutely believe that 2017 can be the year of breakthrough for you! You serve the God of the breakthrough!
Foundations. They are the most important part of any building, business or person. Everything that happens in the future is dependent on the quality of the foundation. The bigger the building the deeper and larger the foundation, it requires more time and greater resources but in the end, it will be worth every amount of energy spent. Building a sky scraper requires that you dig deep, use massive anchors and wide block, anything less and it will crumble under its own weight. Build a business without good financial structure and clear vision of your product and the market and it won’t be long until you’ll see a sign that says, “going out of business.” Likewise, for every successful person there must be a strong foundation. Build a life without God and it won’t be long before a person begins to crack and crumble under the weight of sin. Why are foundations so important? Because storms come to everything and everyone. No building, business, person or family is immune. Jesus teaches us this principle when He talks about two builders who built homes. Likely both were built with the same materials, workmanship and care. The difference? Jesus tells us the difference, one was built on sand, the other on stone. Both appeared to have built successfully, but when the storms came the one built on sand crumbled while the other stood. His principle, storms come and foundations are critical!
As we move into a new year l encourage every person to build a strong foundation. It will require more time and energy, sacrifice and change but if you want 2017 to be the best year of your life, you must build a strong foundation that equips you for success that will survive any storm. So, what does it take? First, clear space. Get rid of the unnecessary. Clear the things that clutter your mind, steal your time and burn energy. Think on the right things (Philip. 4:8), cut out social media, vain media and push back fear and worry. Second, dig deep. Hit your knees daily and stay there until you have been transformed and refreshed by His Spirit. Third, anchor strongly. There is no anchor stronger than the Word of God. David said, Your Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You. Anchor your life and family to the undeniable, all powerful Word of God. Fourth, build on His Spirit. Seek and pursue His Spirit with all your heart. Pray and fast until you’re pure and clean; until you speak in an unknown language again, until you are full of and led by His Spirit. Finally, get God in front of everything. Don’t allow God to become distant, keep Him close to you so that people and problems look small. He is bigger, stronger and more powerful than any problem or person. I believe that 2017 holds great things for Life Connections and every person who calls it home. How great? It depends on us and on how big we are willing to build our foundation. Let’s build BIG!