Spring. It is officially here. If you question it, go to any garden shop. Doesn’t matter if it’s Lowes, Home Depot, or a local nursery, you will be greeted by crowds. All ages and ethnicities with all varieties of plants and flowers in their carts. Drive through any neighborhood and you will see flowerpots and yards filled with an assortment of color: geraniums, petunias, and impatiens. Whether those who are planting realize it or not, they are planting things that require maintenance. If plants are to grow full and lush, they’re going to require fertilizer. Flowers will require getting up early or staying out late for watering. Fail to be disciplined and quickly your flowers and plants will wither and die. As spring turns to summer, other plants begin to appear, ones you did not purchase or plant. Weeds! They require no fertilizer or water, they just grow, grow, and grow. Getting rid of them will require Roundup, and lots of it. A gardener is always at war with weeds. There is so much God in gardening. Think about it, having a healthy and fruitful spiritual life takes work. There must be consistent watering of our hearts and spirits with prayer. We must fertilize our mind and soul with the sounds of worship. We hit the house of God so our lives can be strengthened by His Word and community. Get out of the routine and watch how quickly your spirit can become bitter or sour and heart callused and cold. Then, if the lack of spiritual discipline doesn’t get us, the weeds of sin begin growing. Jealousy drops seeds in our heart, lust gets in our eye, and within days, we’re inundated by the worldly weeds. Today’s challenge. As you work on your yard, remember your heart is a garden as well. Water, feed, and prune regularly!
How accessible are you? Do you keep your cell phone by your bed at night? Are you constantly making sure its fully charged so you don’t miss a call or email? When it comes to checking texts, do you check once a day, once an hour, or once a minute. How about TikTok, Insta, or Facebook? Do you find yourself constantly refreshing or checking in? For some, being accessible is critically important, while for others, it feels better when you are off the grid. But let’s go back to the original question and ask it a bit differently, how accessible are you to God? Is your “spiritual phone” always on? Do you check in for a time of devotion and then shut it down for the day? Maybe occasionally breathe a prayer when there is an important meeting or at the lunch table. Does God have access to you at any time? Can He speak to you in the middle of a meeting, or when a waiter or waitress needs a word of encouragement? Does He have access to you when someone needs prayer in the moment? Can He stir you in the middle of the night or convict you in the middle of the day? Being accessible is critical to living a powerful Christian life. It’s not so much what happens on Sunday, but more so, what happens Monday through Friday that makes us dynamic Christians. In 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul challenges Timothy to be “instant in season, and out of season.” In essence, be ready to share the gospel, your story, and your faith in any moment. What will bring energy and life to your walk with God? Being accessible, being available to fulfill His will and purpose in your day. Turn on your spiritual phone, keep it charged and see what God can do through your life.
From the beginning of the year, God has laser focused messages at Life on the importance of seeing correctly, of being aligned with your pastors and the Spirit. Luke shows us the importance of being present in Acts 1. After Jesus ascends into heaven the disciples are left with the task of replacing Judas. As they begin the process, they first set the criteria for filling the position. What was the criteria? It was this, that whoever filled the roll had to have been with Jesus from His baptism until His death. Why? They understood that if the person had not been present, that they would not be able to align with the vision that Jesus had given them. How important was being present? All we have to do is turn to the first verse in Acts 2. Luke’s first line says it all, “they were in one place and in one accord.” You can’t get to one place and one accord without being present. Faithfulness brought vision, which brought possibility, which allowed 120 to experience a miraculous moment which would lead to a moment in Acts 17 when a society said, “these are they who have turned the world upside down. A question. How can you be aligned with the passion and heart of your pastors and the Spirit if you aren’t present? Over the past six weeks at Life we have cast vision on how to live a blessed life. Beyond the teaching of being financially faithful, we have talked about the importance of expanding your vision. Currently, Mary is leading a powerful study by Beth Moore called Entrusted. She spent days choosing the series, prays and studies each week, hoping ladies will catch the vision that Beth Moore is communicating. The adversary is subtle, he knows the power of “being present.” He understands when people aren’t present, they can never catch their pastors’ vision. A few have legitimist excuses, you live far from the church, but for others, it is simply a matter of priorities. What causes people to become discontent or drift? Most times it’s not sin, simply not being connected. It isn’t a lack of vision that will cause some to fade, merely a lack of being present.
I stared in astonishment. Three branches cut from a tree; no longer attached to their life source. Two branches were in flowerpots, the third, nailed to the other two to form an arch. No big deal, except for one thing, they were still producing blooms. No longer getting any nutrients or water, they were totally detached from their life source, yet they bloomed. As I reflected on the branches my mind drifted to the possibility that Christians may be doing the same thing in the midst of COVID-19. We can put off the appearance of being alive, but in reality, be disconnected from the life source. Know this, Jesus is the source of life for you and your family. Want proof? Lazarus is laying in a tomb and Jesus is trying to build hope in Mary. At one-point Jesus looks at Mary and says, “I AM the resurrection and the life.” Struggling to believe, Jesus takes Mary and her friends to the tomb where Lazarus lays, and with three words, “Lazarus, come forth,” demonstrates that He is the source of Life. I’m afraid that in this time of pandemic many have drifted away from the source of Life. We look alive, can say the right things but we’ve detached ourselves from God. Bibles lay dormant with dust, prayerlessness has become the daily norm and the atmosphere of our homes are filled with more of this world’s movies, music and media than anything spiritual. Though we’re without excuse, we skip out on Midweek Services and catch just enough of the Sunday service to say we watched if anyone asked. Carnality has replaced Christianity. Is there hope? Yes! Unlike the trees that will eventually drop their blooms and dry out, we can confess that we’re weak and have walked away and God will reattach us. Romans 11:23 says when someone turns back to God, that “God is able to graft them in again.” Isn’t that what happened to the prodigal son? He had got detached from his father, lost all he had and nearly died, but in his lowest moment realized, my dad will take me back. Are you away from God? Have you not only isolated from society but from God? You may think you alive, but it’s just a matter of time until you will feel the effects of being detached. I encourage you, seek God, return to righteousness and let God bring you back to life.
Imagine a pristine place. A place where there is no sickness, pain, hurt or sorrow. Days are filled with peace and tranquility; there is one objective, enjoy God’s creation. Travel and see mountains, oceans and the most scenic views. No work, struggle or guilt. This is what God created for us, but in one moment it is all torn away. One act of disobedience, eating from the tree in the middle of the garden, spins the world into a place beyond repair. Genesis 6 says that man’s thoughts were on evil continually, that the earth was corrupt and filled with violence. Jesus says in Luke 17 that in the times of Noah that people were consumed with eating and drinking, partying, without any fear of judgement. In ten generations the earth goes from purity to putrid. God finds one righteous man, Noah, cleanses the earth, and starts over, but again, in 10 generations the world is filled with depravity. In Genesis 19 we find Abraham as he is bargaining with God for the city of Sodom and Gomorrah. He initially asks God to spare the city if he can find 50 righteous people, in the end, he must negotiate down to finding 10 righteous people. Jude 1 says that the people in Sodom and Gomorrah lived for fornication, sexual immorality and unnatural desires. Jesus said in Luke 17 that the city was filled with eating and drunkenness. The point to notice in these accounts is this, although sin starts small, like a virus, it explodes exponentially. In light of what we’re are living through right now and experiencing in society, I encourage you to take account of your life. Paul says in Galatians 5, “that a little leaven leavens the whole lump.” Are you trending toward sin or things that might bind or control you? How will they impact your children? Just as we must practice social distancing, may I suggest that we must live lives where we distance ourselves from the negative influences and sin of this world. We can’t live for the minimum of God and the maximum of this world, we must do the opposite, seek God first, make pleasing Him our highest priority. When we do, we will find something else that explodes exponentially; happiness, joy and peace.
The average American consumes 150 lbs. of sugar each year. Yes. 150 pounds! On average, 80% of the foods we eat contains sugar. Even when we order many of the vegetables in restaurants, they have added sugar, for flavoring. There are very few recipes that don’t involve adding at least a teaspoon of sugar. When we see numbers on packages or menus, they seem small and insignificant, but are you aware that “just 4 grams of sugar” is equal to a teaspoon. So, when we see something that says only 10 grams of sugar, we think, that’s not very much and proceed to eat whatever it is, not realizing what we just ate was equal to 2½ teaspoons of sugar. A little here and a little there and at the end of the year, boom! 150 lbs. My study on sugar got me thinking, what if the average Christian would just add “just a little bit of Jesus” to everything we do? Add a little bit of Jesus, say a few minutes of prayer or some Bible verses, to your day before your kids go off to school and you go off to work. What if we added just a little bit of Jesus, say like, God let me be used for you today, spend me on someone, before we headed off to Target, the mall or out to eat. What if we became intentional about adding a little bit of Jesus to everything we do? What difference could it make. If 4 grams of sugar equals 150 lbs. in a year. What would happen in our lives, families and homes? Let’s make a commitment to adding “just add a little bit of Jesus” to everything we do.
Gate Agent. You had one job to do. Get the people on the plane in an orderly manner. It was as simple as A-B-C, and it started out well. A call for people with tickets in Group A 1 – 60. Everyone lined up and began to board. But somehow between A and B, he got confused, distracted, overwhelmed; who knows. As the final passengers in Group A are headed to the gate and those in Group B start to line up, he flipped the switch, literally and mentally. Without calling for Group B, he moves right to Group C and flips the monitors to C. Within moments there’s chaos, confusion and frustration. Group A is still trying to board, Group B is trying to figure out what happened, and Group C is pushing toward the gate, realizing they had just got an opportunity to get a better seat. The frustration turned to tension as those who knew how the process worked, and had secured their preferable position, now were losing their seat. Now it’s chaos. May I suggest this is what sometimes happens to us who are supposed to gate keepers of our homes and families. We lose focus, bend rules, get out of the Book and before we know it our lives, families and homes are in chaos. As simple as it should have been for the Gate Agent to keep A-B-C in order, it should be for us to keep our spiritual priorities in order. Make the Gospel your life’s priority, seeking Him and His will your goal, live in obedience to His Word and make prayer a priority. One simple job. Keep the gate.
Twelve disciples. Three and a half years. They had eaten meals with Him, had fire side chats with Him, went through storms with Him, witnessed His miracles and heard Him teach and preach. With all of Jesus’ qualities and giftings, they could have asked Him to teach them anything; how to do miracles, to preach or to lead. They wanted one thing. Jesus, teach us to pray. Why? I believe they saw what we often fail to see and understand. Jesus’ strength, power and faith came by being in alignment with Heaven’s plan. While He was fully God, He was also fully man. Prayer kept Jesus focused, kept Him on task and allowed Him to be sensitive to the needs that would come His way each day. Prayer kept Jesus’ agenda on the Kingdom. When He went into the wilderness, He prayed. Before He fed the 5000, He prayed. Before meeting the disciples in the storm, He prayed. When Calvary was in His view, He went to the garden and prayed. The disciples took notice and they understood if they were to accomplish anything in the Kingdom, more than anything else, they needed the ability to pray. His teaching worked; it became an engrafted part of the disciple’s spiritual DNA. They were in prayer when there was a “suddenly” in the upper room. They were on their way to pray when the spirit prompted them to pray for a lame man. After jail time and a confrontation with the Sanhedrin, they prayed. The result, the place was shaken, and new boldness came to their lives. 2020 Vision. Let us understand that prayer is our greatest need. Lord, teach us to pray.
2020. A New Year. A New Decade. What will get our attention? What goals will we pursue? What cornerstones will we build our lives on? These are important questions that will determine our direction as we move into a new year and decade. If we focus and build on the structures of this world, our direction will be set toward the carnal and what the world calculates as success. If we set our hearts and minds on fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives, making Him our foundation, I believe we will see our lives, families and Life ascend to realms beyond our wildest dreams. In Acts 4, Luke says that Jesus is our chief cornerstone. In building there is a point on which every alignment goes off of. That spot, when building our lives, is Jesus. When we set Jesus as our cornerstone, making Him the center of our hearts, thoughts and purposes, everything else falls in right alignment. How do we do it? In 2 Chronicles God calls His people to humble themselves, pray, seek His face and turn toward Him. This is how we start to get in right alignment and set our year and decade off in the right direction. If one chapter could sum up Jesus’ definition of success, I would point to Matthew 6. He opens challenging us to give. He then teaches us to pray and calls us to fast. Finally, He tells us how to live in proper alignment; invest in the Spiritual and eliminate anxiety by trusting in Him. He summarizes it all by simply saying, “seek first the Kingdom.” As we open up 2020 my challenge is the same. Seek God first, make Him your priority.
Ten years ago. It was 2009 and we were preparing to step into a new decade. We were celebrating the move out of Brooks School Elementary into our new home at 11616 E. 126th Street. No more setting up and tearing down. We were proud, thankful and grateful. All 70 of us. For the first time in our short history we had a home. We had 150 chairs. We could meet on Wednesday evenings, have choir practices and we actually had rooms for kids’ classes! We thought we had arrived. Now, as we close the decade, just 10 years later, I marvel at what God has done. From 70 people to over 300 who now call Life their home, we have witness God’s faithfulness as we have shared His gospel. We have seen God do amazing things. We close out 2019 with an expanded campus and a spirit of expectancy and excellence. As we prepare to step into a new decade it seems to be just as it was in 2010, a launching pad moment. We enter 2020 with 4K cameras and live broadcast that will take our services around the globe and new seating that will give us the ability to seat nearly 500 people. What will the next 10 years be like? God only knows. What is our responsibility. The same as it was as we stepped from 2009 to 2010. To pray. To keep seeking God with all of our hearts. To ask God to do it again, to bring another outpouring of His Spirit as He did in the book of Acts. Let’s trust Him to take us further than our greatest imagination both in our own lives and at Life.
One of the best ways to grow as a Christian is to pick up some encouraging inspirational reading. Maybe you’re looking for a little something extra on your Christmas list? Here are the Top Ten Pastors Picks for some good reading in 2020.
• Addicted to Busy – Brady Boyd
• Boundaries – Dr. Henry Cloud
• Draw a Circle – Mark Batterson
• Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt – Jentezen Franklin
• Not a Fan -Kyle Idleman • Storms – Jim Cymbala
• The End of Me – Kyle Idleman
• The Noticer – Andy Andrews
• Unshakable Hope- Max Lucado
• Whisper – Mark Batterson
Three sunset maple trees. All bought at an end of the year clearance sale. I planted the two best trees in the strip between our sidewalk and street and the scrawnier tree in the side yard. This week, three years after planting them, and while enjoying the colors, I noticed two things about the trees. First, the two trees near the street had brilliant red leaves while the one planted in the side yard had more golden-brown leaves. Second, the two trees in the front were now smaller, their trunks not as thick and branches not as high. The tree that was once scrawny was now much taller and thick. What produced the difference? Soil and water. The trees planted in poorer soil had taken in less water. While their color was brilliant, the smaller overall growth was evidence that they were getting less water. The tree in the side yard, where the soil was richer and water more available, showed growth; its roots had grown deep and its branches higher. What is true of trees is true of Christians. Where we are planted and how much spiritual nutrition we take in, is important. Jesus talked about the importance of soil, of being in the right place spiritually, in His parable about seeds. Paul said where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, or growth. May I suggest that where we plant our life is important. Here are a few suggestions where to plant your life. In His Word. In His presence. In a place of prayer. In His House. Get planted in the right place and watch your life explode in growth and brilliant color.
There’s been a shift in what it means to be a Christian. Once being a Christian meant being Spiritual. It meant desiring to live godly and holy. It meant seeking after God, scouring the Bible, weeping as we learned more about Him and seeing how we had fell short. There was a desire in Spirit filled people to be led and controlled by His Spirit. Conviction would send us to prayer in tears. Today’s Christianity is filled with watered down feel-good intentions and warm fuzzy moments. It’s a verse posted on Instagram instead of devouring His Word in hunger to know Him. It’s a praying hands text, instead of hours of interceding for change in us or a situation. Most have no concept of the principle Paul taught in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “what partnership have right living and right standing with God with iniquity and lawlessness? Or how can light have fellowship with darkness?” Today’s Christianity is a mixture of Christ and carnality. We exhibit our faith on Sundays but live by our feelings the rest of the week. In Acts there are many people we should emulate. Two in particular are Stephen and Cornelius. In Acts 6 we are introduced to Stephen. He’s a man full of faith; a man full of and controlled by the Spirit. In Acts 10 we discover Cornelius. He’s a devout man; a man of continual prayer, who idolized, honored and held sacred things that God valued. These men were not just Christians, they were Spiritual men. It’s a wonder that there is so much angst and rejection of Christianity. When Christianity is watered down it is worthless. As we end the Month of the Family, I challenge you to become more than a Christian. Dedicate to making your home and family more than passionless spectators. Let’s be Spiritual. People who are full of the Spirit, led by the Spirit and controlled by the Spirit.
October, Month of the Family at Life. We kick things up a notch and fill the month with lots of activities and special services. Why? Because family is important to God. In fact, when we look in Genesis, one of the first things God did was create family; Adam and Eve. What makes for a successful family? Pretty simple, make His priorities the priorities of our families. What values should we make important this month? First, make the Word of God the foundation of our home. The Word of God is our instruction manual, road map and the final decision maker in all we do. Second, elevate prayer to an essential part of our family’s culture. Spend time as a family praying together; share your needs and success with one another and God. Make Community Prayer and Saturday at Seven a significant part of your routine. It is in these environments that our kids sense the power and value of prayer. Third, understanding the value of regular church attendance is critical. It is in His house where we learn to worship, experience faith, see miracles and grow in relationship with God. Finally, I encourage you to make spending time together an intentional action this month. We must make “together” one of our highest priorities. Personal devices, social media, gaming, and entertainment will mercilessly steal time from our spouses and families. Play games, ride bikes, take walks; be imaginative, but whatever we do, make creating memories a priority. Let’s make this year’s Month of the Family one that changes the culture and future of our lives.
Solomon, the author of the book of Ecclesiastes, gives us a book filled with life’s wisdom. I love Solomon’s reminder that life is full of “times.” Sometimes we forget that life is not static, but full of ebb and flow. Tauren Wells song says it well, “He’s the God of the hills and valleys.” Often, we think of life in terms of seasons; spring, summer, fall and winter, but life is much more than four seasons. This is why Solomon used the word “times.” He wants us to be aware there are moments in our days when we laugh, cry, hurt, heal, mourn, dance, feel peace and difficulty. Living in the 21st century makes this more of a reality than ever. Lives are overwhelmed by instant news, seeing more than we need, unlimited information and more technologies than ever. Anxiety is at an all-time high, there is more pressure on our jobs than ever, and God is being eliminated from much of our society. As we adapt to this new style of life there’s several things to remember. First, don’t judge. We don’t fully grasp people’s battles, the “times” they are walking through. Pray for and encourage them. Second, when we go through “times”, remember that it’s just that, “a time,” it will pass. Live life with an expectancy that it could change at any moment. Finally, invite God into your life daily. Don’t skip prayer and make God’s Word a priority. The quickest way to experience change in your life is to encourage yourself in the Lord. Start today, understand life is a series of times, experience them moment by moment.
For six days God created. After six amazing days of creativity, God takes a day off. He rests and reflects on His work. It seems that He enjoyed His day of rest so much that when He met Moses on Mt. Sinai with the 10 Commandments, He includes rest as one of the commands. The Sabbath, God’s blessing and gift to man, a day of rest. The concept was simple. Whatever your daily job was, take the day off, celebrate God’s goodness, relax and reflect. Years pass and the simple blessing becomes encumbered with rules. Don’t help a sick animal, don’t move furniture and don’t travel more than a mile, just a few of 39 extensions added to God’s original idea of rest. How tragic is it when men burden God’s blessings with rules? It steals away what was meant for our good. As a result, people walk away from God and the wonderful blessings He designed for us. The idea of a Sabbath is nearly forgotten. The principle and blessing is no longer celebrated or lived out. Instead our lives are over-taxed, filled with anxiety and stress and we have little time for our family and friends. The idea of resting, relaxing and reflecting rarely comes to the landscape of our mind. Instead we are constantly looking for something to bring us enjoyment and peace. I suggest that maybe it’s time to schedule a regular Sabbath. A day when we stop and chill. A day when we celebrate and worship God. A day when we take a nap, a walk or bike ride. A day when we enjoy a hobby or simply relax and celebrate what we have accomplished. Be intentional. Take back your Sabbath!
A life with a closed Bible is basically the same as a life with no Bible. When we live our lives without including the scripture as a daily part of our life, our lives run dangerously parallel to someone who doesn’t follow God at all. Calling ourselves a Christian, attending church weekly, yet living a life that doesn’t search out the scriptures is dangerous. When we read the Bible, it teaches us how we should live our lives, what pleases God and what actions bring His favor and blessings. The strength of the disciples and Apostle Paul was their knowledge of God’s Word. Christians without God’s Word as their compass live to please themselves and are more image conscious than God conscious. Christians that regularly live in the Word of God tend to be more peaceful, live humbly and are more focused on pleasing God than themselves. Christians that are Biblically focused live lives like John the Baptist who said, “I must decrease, and He must increase.” A Christ focus person understands that it is not drawing attention to themselves but reflecting Jesus that is important. Passionate Christians are like Paul who said, “that I may know Him.” They understand that becoming like Jesus is a life priority. The real danger in modern Christianity is not a lack of worship but a lack of the Word. Without Biblically centered lives and home, we become religious, empty and shallow. We have no ownership of beliefs, values or convictions and simply live to please our flesh. As a person who is trying to live as an authentic Christian, I challenge you to make your Bible a daily priority.
I recently read a sign that said, “Don’t stumble over things that are behind you.” Obviously, it was not referring to physically stumbling, but mentally or emotionally stumbling over something in the past. Looking through a physical perspective, there are only two ways we stumble over things behind us. First, we stumble when we turn around and go back to obstacles we have overcame. Second, we stumble because there might be someone or something that causes us to be afraid or have anxiety, and being overwhelmed, we begin backing up, forgetting what was behind us. Building on these physical principles, I suggest this is why we stumble spiritually. We go back to what God brought us from. We forget how broken, abused and empty we were. We turn back to what once again looks enticing, forgetting how empty it left us. We forget that God is with us and God is for us, and overwhelmed in the moment we think, I can’t do this. Secondly, we stumble because Satan uses fear and intimidation against us. We come against a big problem, people who hurt us or we are reminded of who we were before Jesus came into our life, and we tend to back up. We forget that greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world. We forget that we are equipped with the armor of God and the gifts of the Spirit, so we retreat. My words today come from Joshua who says, “be strong and courageous!” From Paul who said, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” Tempted to quit, don’t stumble, stand and see the salvation of the Lord. He is for you!
Being missional is an important part of any successful church. It’s all a part of the “go” found in Matthew 28:19. Being a mission minded church involves many tangents. We have some who serve families with meals or gift cards when there is sickness or hardship. We have those who go on short trips and help with needs in third world countries while others are making it their life’s purpose to share the gospel of Jesus. There is a Men’s group, called Hope, that helps widows, divorced and single women with answers and assistance with home and car issues. Even Life’s video ministry, is a part of missions, taking Life services to homes, hospitals and nursing homes across the U.S. and the world. We’re always looking for additional volunteers. If you can help with meals, see Julie Robinson. Want to help sponsor our two full time missionaries, Joe and Cassandra Landaw or Charity Yadon, or help with one of our short-term missionaries like Chad Yadon, simply mark it on your check or giving envelope. If you’re a man and want to assist with Hope, see Kendera Starks. Finally, were bringing on a new focus. First Sunday’s, Family Sunday is now also going to be Mission’s Sunday. To make it work we’re asking two things. First, bring an offering for missions, mark it on your giving envelope. Second, help us support the local food pantry here in Fishers. They need the following items: Peanut Butter, Jelly, sugar, flour, oil, canned meats, Hamburger Helper, canned fruit, applesauce, juices and snacks. On first Sunday’s there will be a donation container in the lobby, simply drop in your food items and we will get them to the food pantry. Get involved and get your “go” on!
Back to School 2019. It’s more than a prayer of protection and a cloth to remind students that God is with them. This day of prayer is to remind us that God chooses young people, that in today’s group are missionary’s, musicians, singers, pastors and elders. Less we forget, Joseph was 17 when he dreamed a dream and 30 when he took control of the most powerful nation in the world. David was anointed at the age of 16 and by the age 30 was elevating Israel to world prominence. Something was seen in a young boy by the name of Josiah when he was eight and within a few years he brought Israel into one of the greatest times of revival that Israel ever experienced. Esther, at the age of 14 becomes queen, and by the age of 19 she has saved her nation from extinction. Mary and Joseph and most of the Disciples were teenagers. I love Jeremiah 29:11 where God says, “I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you.” We must believe that God has a plan for our students, that there is destiny in their future. If there is a destiny, today is more than a moment of prayer and a cloth, it’s a moment of commitment. We must build upon today’s prayer and create a culture in our homes and families that enhances our student’s faith and love for God. We must lead our students in prayer, encourage them to live in faith and exemplify holiness and righteousness that will protect their character and integrity. Back to School 2019, a commitment to making God big in our students lives and in our homes.
Proverbs 23:23 says, buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding. While there are many who love the worship service, the music and praise or the inspiration they get from someone preaching, it is the daily love and devotion to God’s Word that is critical. As Christians it is important that we have a passion and love for the Word of God. There are several reasons. First, when we have a passion for the Bible, it shows that we have a hunger to know God and desire to grow in our relationship with Him. While being Spirit filled is important, it is only the beginning of a relationship. It’s only through developing a desire for God’s Word and prayer that we actually grow and learn about God. Second, without a working understanding of our Bible, those who speak for God have no accountability. Without people in the pews reading their Bibles, without people knowing God’s Word, men supposedly representing God can take people about anywhere. In the New Testament Paul is continually warning the saints to be on guard of false teachers. These were men with personal agendas, not a Gospel agenda. God doesn’t promise everyone will be healed. He never said that everyone’s prayer request would be met. One of my greatest fears is that we are living in a time when people are falling in love with the “church performance” but not developing a passion to know and please God. Today I’m challenging you to make God’s Word your highest priority. We must know Him and that happens by reading His Word. Buy the truth.
We don’t know her name, background or what caused her to step into an affair. At the moment it really didn’t matter, she had been caught in adultery. She was now a pawn to men who would use her for their benefit. Men with long robes, hard hearts, personal agendas and a frenzy for murder over mercy now stood over her. Self-righteous men with no concern for her soul or eternity, only their agenda and protecting their religious convictions, now stand screaming, “stone her, the law condemns her.” Half dressed, overwhelmed and dazed by what has just happened, she lays weeping in front of Jesus. But her accusers had made one fatal mistake, they had asked Jesus, “What do you say?” Stooping between the weeping woman and angry mob Jesus begins to write. What he writes only eternity will tell, but whatever it was, one by one, accusers and self-righteous men begin to drop their stones and walk away. The silence is only broken by the whimper of a broken woman. Jesus lifts her head and ask one question. Not why did you do it? Not what were you thinking? Simply, where are your accusers? Consumed by her sin and pending punishment, she doesn’t realize they are gone. Glancing around and seeing no one she says, “there are none.” What self-righteous people will never say, Jesus says, “neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” The words still ring true today. No matter what you have done or where you have gone, know that no matter what anyone else says or thinks, Jesus says, “neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” He doesn’t throw stones. He gives second chances.
Yesterday marked 50 years since Apollo 11 landed on the moon. It was a culmination of dreams, imagination, will-power and hard work. Were there cynics and skeptics? Yes, but a simple belief, backed by dedication and commitment brought about one of the most amazing events in all of history. While most will remember Neil Armstrong’s quote, “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” the quote that rings powerful in my mind is a lesser known quote. Armstrong said this, “I believe every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine.” God has given each of us an opportunity to dream, imagine and believe. He has equipped us with the faith “that all things are possible to those who believe,” and when we walk in His will and purpose, we can accomplish anything. A shepherd becomes a king, a farmer a prophet, and fishermen become apostles. Sitting in a field David doesn’t know where life will take him, but I bet he was imagining. Amos may be tending sheep, but somewhere in his heart he senses a passion to call his people back to God. A group of fishermen may have seemed destined only for fishing, but inside of them God had put an unquenchable fire. How about you? Is there a dream inside of you? A Word you’ve heard from God? Dream, imagine, pray and prepare. Leaders and visionaries are often alone and face more attack than you can imagine. Push against those who lack imagination and vision and press in to your destiny. There is no telling where it may lead!
Your yard. 90 degrees. No rain. Add it all together and it’s the recipe for a drought. Just so you know, it’s not dead, it’s dormant. Brown grass doesn’t indicate dead grass but surviving grass. The brown color lets you know that your grass is aware that there’s too much heat and not enough water. It gives up its color, forgets about its appearance and protects its roots. It’s taking all the water and protecting its life source. What is true of our yards is true when it comes to times of drought in our spiritual life. There are seasons when life gets hot, our souls get dry and we feel spiritually dehydrated. What do we do? Protect the roots. It’s during these times when the best thing you can do is draw near to God, soak in His presence and feed on His Word. You may have seasons when your joy feels exhausted and your worship feels empty, but don’t be too concerned. Even though it may appear bad or feel empty, have confidence that the same God that brought the rain is surrounding you in the dry times. Did you know that when managed properly, a drought is good for grass? Drought kills off weeds, strengthens the roots and when the rains come and the seasons change, makes the grass stronger. While we don’t like spiritual droughts, they strengthen our faith, give us a fresh view of God and make us stronger for the good times. In a dry time? Be encouraged, God’s got you.
Have you ever been so thirsty that the Sahara Desert seemed like a rain forest? Have you ever got into your car only to find it so empty that you had the best prayer meeting of your week as you prayed your car to the gas station? Dry. Empty. Two words we don’t like to hear and they are especially difficult to hear when we walk through dry and empty times in our spiritual lives. We pray, fast, worship and read God’s word but it all seems to go nowhere. We seek God but He is nowhere to be found. Moses spent 40 years wandering in a desert, Paul spent three years in a desert and Jeremiah preached his entire life without one convert. Dry and empty times do not mean we are lost, in fact we may be exactly where God wants us to be. It is often in our empty and dry times that we become most sensitive to God. It’s in these times His voice becomes more defined and His direction becomes clearer. While our world likes the words successful and powerful to describe great men and women, God often chooses to use words like broken, yielded and surrendered to describe his most powerful men and women. Going through a tough stretch? Feeling empty and broken? God takes an empty vessel and fills a house full of jars with oil. He takes empty water pots, has them filled with water and turns them to wine. If you’re empty and dry, don’t be overly concerned, God likely has you right where He wants you. Keep trusting and believing!
For seven hours, thirty-six racers competed for thirty-three slots in the Indianapolis 500 yesterday. For months, plans had been made, sponsors gathered and hours of practice had taken place. At the end of the day, regardless of the investment, three drivers weren’t good enough; they didn’t qualify. I am thankful that my salvation isn’t predicated on qualifying. It’s not my work but the work that Jesus did that makes the difference. Jesus took care of our qualifying. He went to the cross, shed His blood, resurrected and ascended. That finished it. His work on Calvary qualifies us for salvation, eternal life and heaven. Our job? Simple, run the race. Believe that Jesus’ work qualifies us. Obey His Gospel. Have a relationship with Him. Seek Him daily. Live in repentance and be water and Spirit filled as He said in John 3:5 – 6. We don’t have to be perfect, we don’t have to live in fear and we don’t have to worry that there are only so many spots. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “come ALL who are weary and heavy burdened.” It’s not based on men, organizations or good works, it’s open to all who come to Him humbly. I love how the author put it in Hebrews 12, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” Today, I have three words for you. Run your race.
A kaleidoscope of color. The Fourth of July in May. It’s God’s creation exploding with new life as we move into a new season. A lot of rain and a little sun and waalaa…color! Multi-colored tulips, purple redbuds, white dogwoods, pink crab apples, yellow azaleas and lots of green grass to mow. When the gray of winter finally surrenders to the brilliance of spring, life comes back with vengeance. With all the color comes evening walks, bicycle rides, visits to the golf course and picnics in the park. It’s as if not only did spring bring color, but life, hope and joy. It reminds me of the scripture found in Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” What is true of natural spring is true of a spiritual spring too. Our lives are seasonal, we go through times heat and drought, times that are crisp with color and winter, where it’s cold, dark and gray. But thankfully there is spring! The time when we come back to life. Our joy returns, our smile radiates and we have the energy to take on Goliath and conqueror the walls of Jericho. Has it been a long winter? Take heart, spring is coming! Your life will once again burst with brilliance. You’re not too far from a bounce in your step, a gleam in your eye, a song in your heart and faith to believe all things are possible. Spring is on its way!
It’s a given, tough times come. When they come they either build trust and draw us closer to God or weaken our confidence and we find ourselves drifting away in doubt. It’s our response to difficult and challenging moments that determines much about our future. Having the ability to trust God involves understanding that everything isn’t logical or rational and to trust God when life doesn’t make sense. The more that we are around God, His presence, the more we have the ability to trust in Him. Why does Simon Peter have the faith to step out of the boat? He had been around Jesus and learned to trust His word. Sometimes God allows us to experience more than we can handle. On one occasion Jesus was in the boat with His disciples when suddenly a storm developed. Panic ensued, fear overwhelms the crew and suddenly they find themselves crying out for Jesus’ help. Who could have imagined? Jesus was in the boat, but still a storm came. What lesson is learned? Just because Jesus is in your boat doesn’t mean you won’t have storms. But even better, if Jesus is in the boat have confidence that the storm won’t sink you. In a storm? It’s likely that Jesus is using the storm for His purpose; to take your faith, your ability to trust Him, to a new level. Going through a tough time? Remember Paul’s words in Romans 8:28, we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.
Digital Friendships. They give us the impression that we’re connected, but the reality is that we live in a time when we are lonelier than ever. A friendship, it use to mean physical connection. It meant sharing an interest, understanding each other’s goals and enjoyed doing life together. The average American now has 300 Facebook friends but only two actual friends and a quarter of Americans say they have zero friends. We all need someone (and to be someone) who cares, who listens, who will let you vent and will let you cry. We have become a society of isolation. We push a button, pull into our garages and shut the door behind us. We go into different rooms and watch tv and movies. We set around the same restaurant tables, but separated by our devices. We have become alone, together. In Genesis 2:18, right at the beginning of time, God said of Adam, “it is not good for man to be alone.” Isolation is one of Satan’s greatest tools. When did Satan tempt Jesus? When he was alone. The great challenge of our day is to protect and build relationships, to connect. How do we do it? Three things to look for as we fight for connection. A friend that will challenge you, make you better. A friend that will help you grow in God and grow your faith. A friend that will tell you the truth, especially when you don’t want to hear it. If we can find the right friends, we may be one friendship away from changing our destiny.
There will always be moments when we are tempted to cut our losses and run but often God is saying, “stay.” Ruth is a beautiful example where logic seemed to be saying go back, but faith was saying, “stay.” Ruth 1:16 says, “But Ruth said, do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”I believe Ruth understood that the moment was more about who would be her God than her physical circumstances.She believed in Naomi’s relationship with God, and because of her decision to stay, she was catapulted into an introduction to Boaz. There are two things that we need to do if we are going to be where God wants us. First, ask some questions. Where is God asking me to “stay?” What does God want me to pursue? More family time? More spiritual development? If so, stop pursuing your dreams and follow His. Second, be a finisher. God often uses the very things that we hate, that hurt and are difficult to rewire and transform us. If you’ve quit something that you should have stayed with, have the courage to make it right. Joseph stayed with the process and the closing line to his story was, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” I challenge you, find your “stay” and see where it takes you.
Jealousy, envy, gossip and hurt. Just a few contaminants that can get in our hearts and make us toxic. These toxins steal joy, peace and happiness and leave us discontent and dissatisfied. How do we turn it around? One of the quickest ways is to turn our focus from ourselves to others; to serve. Pouring out of ourselves is one of the quickest ways to refill our hearts with joy and happiness. By nature, we are all self-centered. What parent had to teach their child to say, “mine?” God’s nature is the opposite of human nature. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself.” Serving is to love people, hurt with them, pour into them, to listen; It is to share ourselves. True service expects nothing in return. God wants us to be contributors, not consumers. Which are you? A consumer drops their kids off in a class, grabs a cookie, gets some coffee, enjoys the service (maybe, if the music fits my taste and the message doesn’t convict) and goes home for the week? A contributor’s life says I’m here to serve, how can I make a difference, how can I bless someone. We must remember that the church exists for the world. Serving must not be something we do, but who we are. Make it a life goal to serve. Put it into practice this year, set aside seven days or partial days to be a part of something that impacts others. Being a servant should be the core of our Christian identity.
Stepping toward our destiny may mean we have to step away from our security and each time we are willing to take a risk, to do something unfamiliar or uncertain, we learn more about God and to trust Him more.Going where God wants us to go often means leaving what is comfortable, predictable and easy and often God has to stir us, make us uncomfortable or challenge us to think in a new way. Waiting for lunch, Simon Peter deals with a disturbing dream that defies everything he believes. Three separate times a sheet drops down challenging him to eat food that was considered “unclean.” Confounded by the dream, Simon Peter doesn’t realize the dream is preparing him for a new realm of belief and understanding of God. As the dream comes to an end, a man from the house of Cornelius comes asking him to preach the Gospel. The dream leads to a “go” that brings the Gospel to a new ethnicity of people. With every “go” there is a risk verses reward challenge, and either we ourselves or our adversary, makes the risk look larger than the reward. In reality, it is just the opposite, the reward is almost always greater than the risk. Why are we hesitant? Because fear loves to overwhelm faith. We want details, we rationalize, when God is saying, “trust me, go.” Where is God asking you to go? Stagnation in our walk with God and life is not God’s plan. Step into your “go” and watch where God takes you!
Learning to Stop. It sounds easier than it is. It’s just one more cookie. It’s just another minute or two on social media that turns into thirty. Learning to stop takes time and experiences. Time and experience create wisdom, it’s life experiences, yours and what we learn from others and wisdom is God’s navigational tool that helps us to make right decisions and helps us to stop making or repeating wrong choices. Have a major decision in front of you? Here are three processes to help. First, stop! Use wisdom from your experiences or glean wisdom from others who already walked through your situation. Often the best thing we can do is take a time out. Hit the pause button. Sleep on it. Next, ask yourself these questions. “Where will this end up? Is this the story I want to write? Is this God’s story for me?” Finally, visualize the outcome long-term. Visualizing can help us connect the dots from where we are too where we want to be rather than where we are and how did we get here. Taking time to implement these three techniques can help us to stop and start us in a new direction. What is God asking you to abort, abandon, to stop, so you can live to tell a better story and have a better life? Hebrews 12:1says, “Lay aside every weight and sin.” What is the one thing that is really hindering you? Seek God’s help, pray, read your bible and fast and I believe you can begin a stop today.
In the first session of our new Wednesday night series, Divine Direction, we learned that regardless of our past, the future and the number of chapters still to be written, is unknown. Because we have no idea of how many chapters are left to be written, we can choose to start writing a new chapter today. We also discovered that just because we’ve been handed one blueprint does not mean we have to build on it, we can ask God for another blueprint and build something new. Regardless of where we’ve came from, what we’ve walked through or what we’ve experienced, we have the choice to build a different kind of life, family and home. Rahab is a beautiful example. Her early chapters were about being a harlot. Simply by having faith in God and putting a scarlet scarf out her window, she changed her story. She started a new chapter and changed her family’s heritage forever. From a harlot to the bloodline of Jesus! That’s an amazing transformation. Want to start building something new, start a new chapter? Here’s five principles to implement. 1. Pray, ask for God to give you strength and wisdom. 2. Assess, do an honest assessment of who you are and who God wants you to be. 3. Focus, on one single change for this year. 4. Daily, work on that one change and remember it’s a process, not a moment. 5. Start! Simply start doing one new thing today!
We often think it is the big decisions that change our life but in actuality it is the series of small choices that make the difference in our life’s direction. It’s Moses’ small choice of choosing to turn and listen to the voice after hearing it coming from the burning bush. Ignoring that small moment would have likely left him with an unfulfilled and empty life in the wilderness. By one small choice, turning toward a burning bush, Moses finds himself leading a nation out of bondage and to the Promise Land. It’s David, after being anointed, being asked to do a menial task of bringing cheese and bread to his brothers. By choosing to do the simple task, rather than feeling that his dad’s request was beneath him, David defeats a giant by the name of Goliath, becomes a national hero and the rest is history. One small task leads to a throne and an eternal lineage. Both of these men and so many others in the Bible made small choices that led to big moments in their lives. Over the next seven weeks at Life’s Midweek we’re going to talk about Divine Direction, how making small choices can change your life and lead you to great places. Looking for a change in attitude, mindset or direction? I invite you to be a part of this challenging series. A divine moment that can set your life in Divine Direction.
AT&T’s new commercials that “just okay, is not okay” are both humorous and true. When looking for a surgeon or someone to install your brakes, you don’t want someone who is “just okay.” And I would suggest that while surgery and brakes are important, of more importance is your eternal destination. You don’t want to be in a church or under a ministry where the certainty of your eternal destination is in question. I don’t want tradition, religion or opinion to be my standard, I want Jesus, His Word to be my source. In John 3 Jesus and Nicodemus are having a conversation about seeing the kingdom of God, and Jesus uses a word, that I can’t get past. The word “unless.” Talking about eternity Jesus says to Nicodemus, “unless a man is born of the water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven.” That is a bold proclamation. There’s not a lot of wiggle room. As a pastor, we don’t want the confidence that you have about your eternity to be “just okay.” That’s not okay! While you might survive an okay surgery or an okay brake repair, we don’t want to risk “okay salvation” with your soul. So, we preach Jesus. We preach the cross. We preach His blood covers. We preach the resurrection. We preach baptism in His name. We preach baptism in the Spirit with an unknown language as the initial sign of infilling. We preach living for and growing in relationship with Him. We preach what we know to be the most secure message for your soul. Why? Because when it comes to eternity, “just okay, is not okay!”
Moving. To some it brings excitement while to others it brings a groan. Moving, regardless of the distance, changes so many things. A few years ago, we moved to our current residence. The move caused both kids to change schools, we changed grocery stores, gas stations where we got gas and even places we would dine out; all by moving just three miles. Since moving, nearly every piece of furniture has been replaced and every wall has been painted. Needless to say, moving equals change. Therein lies the problem with moving, some people do not want to change. In Exodus 12, God tells the Children of Israel to get ready to move. Have your bags packed, bread baked, shoes on and staff in hand. In one night six hundred thousand families moved. With that move everything in their life changed. We don’t have room to catalog all that changed but a short list includes jobs, lifestyle, and perspective all changed. One day they are slaves driven by task masters, the next day they are free being led by God, fed manna and getting water from a rolling rock. Some were overwhelmed and stayed in Egypt, others complained about the new adventure, but thankfully, most embraced it, took on the challenge and moved into a dimension of faith and a land far beyond their imagination. Do you have the faith to move, to embrace the change? God is longing to take someone into a new realm. Will it be you? If so, then get ready for an amazing future.
Super Bowl 53. 110 Million people will watch. Some watch to see the game, many tune in to see the commercials and a few are there for the halftime show. With such a large audience, companies are willing to hand over $170,000 per second to gain your attention and sell their product. At the end, a team will walk away with the title of champion and their town will celebrate like it is New Year’s Day. The next day people will gather around cubicles and water coolers to talk about their favorite commercial and maybe a great play or controversial call. But the reality is that within a few days the game and the commercials will be history, life will go on until the next “big” event. And so it goes, we live from one event to another. Solomon put it well in Ecclesiastes 1:2 “…vanity of vanities. All is vanity.” If we live for the Big Game, the next event or gadget, then life quickly becomes empty. It really has no purpose. What gives your life purpose is not your social life, education or job, but God. If we live with a God purpose then life has purpose. No longer are we living for the next great thing, we are living to see Him, living for Heaven. A simple question today. Where’s your life focus, your priorities? Is it on the earthly or the eternal? The answer makes all the difference to how you view and live life.
God wants relationship. From Adam to the Apostles it has always been about relationship. He longs for people who desire to commune with him. Could David’s great quality and what brought an eternal lineage simply be, that he longed to be in God’s presence? Relationship is key and the disciples missed it. It’s the Passover and hours before Jesus will go to the cross and what does He earnestly want? Communion. Fellowship. He is hours from away from suffering and what does Jesus desire? To have dinner with His disciples. He wants His disciples to know that He’s going away. He wants them to know that whatever they’ve done or will do, that He will still want relationship with them. We miss that. We get caught up in the cup and the bread, but hear Jesus’ heart, “I want fellowship”. Relationship. In that moment, more than anything, Jesus just wanted someone to sympathize, to care, yet all the disciples could care about was themselves, their position and greatness in the kingdom. What happened then can happen today. We can get so caught up in our world that we miss Jesus’ desire. To have a relationship with us. Communion, it’s more than a cup and a piece of bread. It’s a reminder that more than anything God wants our attention. He wants to talk to us through His Word, to hear from us in our prayers and be with us by His Spirit. Make communion a lifestyle, not a moment.
The lines were drawn. We will eat vegetables and drink water and your servants will eat the king’s food. After ten days you observe and see who is in better condition. The ten days passed, the meals ate and as the king observed both groups, it was evident that the four young Hebrew men were stronger. Not only that, but scripture says that God had given them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom. While we cannot comprehend how, we cannot deny the fact that God honored their fast, their commitment and faith in God. In the New Testament, after fasting, the powerful and influential church in Antioch was inspired to send Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey. That period of submission brought about an explosion of the gospel that changed the world. It all started with a church that prayed and fasted. Again, how it works we don’t understand, but that it works we cannot deny. As we step into a new year I am encouraging every person to get involved in Life Fast 2019. 2 Chronicles 7:14 is a contract between God and His people. It’s a simple contract. If we will humble ourselves, pray and seek His face and turn from sin then we will hear from Heaven, He will forgive and He will heal. 2019 can be a year of incredible change and blessing. It starts with making a commitment, staying the course and keeping the faith. Want to see something different happen in your life? Then do something different. Get on board, fast, pray and seek God like never before.
Moving toward a new year, one of your purposes should be to create a culture in your heart, life and home that is growing closer to God. For your spiritual life to be authentic, your relationship with God must become personal; you must have ownership. One of the best ways to grow in passion and make spiritual changes is to read inspiring and challenging books. As you read, take time to pray and fast a day or a meal. Below are some suggested reads for 2019 that will change your life.
- The Bible (Start with Proverbs and read as led.)
- Draw the Circle, The 40 Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson
- The Book of Mysteries by Jonathan Cahn (365 Day Devotional)
- The Fasting Edge by Jentezen Franklin
- Fresh Wind Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala
- It’s Not About Me by Max Lucado
- Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt by Jentezen Franklin
- Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado
- Storm by Jim Cymbala
- Addicted to Busy by Brady Boyd
- Men: Play the Man by Mark Batterson
- Ladies: A Heart Like His by Beth Moore
Looking down at my meal as I got ready to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner I saw a full plate. As I looked at my plate I reflected on how much it was a representation of my life; full. What makes the plate of my life full is not the things of this world but the presence of God in my life and family. Our lives are full when we have a hunger for God and have a desire to spend time with God. Our lives are blessed when we understand that God’s Word brings such strength and power to our day and that we recognize our time in prayer as the most important time of our day. Our plates are full when we realize that we are fortunate to have an extended family that worships with us, prays for us and goes with us through the difficult seasons of life. Our plate is full when we understand that the most important thing that we can leave for our children is a spiritual legacy. A legacy that is built on the powerful name of Jesus and the absolute necessity of being filled with and living a Spirit led life. Do you have a full plate? Don’t look at your material possessions, but what really matters, your relationship with God. If you have a life that knows about Jesus and His work on Calvary, your plate is full.
A raindrop, pebble, rock or stone; no matter the object or size, it creates a ripple that the diameter, effect and end, no one knows. The impact of our lives, are much like a ripple. We serve God, share the Gospel, give money and tell our story, yet often leave this life not knowing the impact of our existence. Stephen is an example of such a life. The Bible simply says that Stephen was a man full of faith, full of grace and power and full of the Spirit. His life ends tragically with a stoning by wicked men. Those who witnessed his life likely talked about his potential and all that he could have done if God had spared his life. Yet, that day was just the splashing of a stone. The impact of his life had not ended, but just began. That day a young Saul watched his stoning and a ripple started in his heart. A ripple that would takes years to see its effect, but on a road to Damascus, everything changed. Saul becomes Paul, is converted, and the rest is history. Countless messages preached, missionary journeys, many churches established and twelve epistles written. All a ripple effect from a life that seemed to end so senselessly. When we get to Heaven I imagine Stephen will be shocked by the impact of his life. I have a feeling it will be the same for many today who read this story. Live a life that leaves a ripple.
I need new shoe strings. It’s not that I can’t afford them, it’s just that I haven’t taken time to go to the store. So, I deal with frayed shoe strings that get in tangled knots. Instead of taking a few minutes to make the purchase I find myself spending extended time trying to untangle the knots. What a picture of life. There are so many aspects of life that become complicated, not because God doesn’t have the solution but because we refuse to bring our difficulties to Him. Instead of saying, “God I’ve got a mess or God, this is broken,” we sit for hours, weeks and months trying to untangle, get the “knots” out, by our self. Jesus said, “come to me all who labor and are heavy-laden or overwhelmed and I will give you rest,” in essence just give it to me. How many times do we find ourselves wanting to talk it out with a friend or even worse, trying to fix it our self. Our lives will have areas that get frayed and there will be complications. Just like the solution to my shoe strings is to go to the store and buy a new pair of strings, the solution for our tangled and knotted messes is Jesus. Have complicated situations in your life that’s bringing stress? It’s time to simplify, take them to Jesus. He specializes in taking care of knots and tangled situations.
Moments of opportunity. If we miss them we may miss a life changing experience. They don’t come in neon lights, they come in common every day moments. They come disguised as an opportunity to make a difference in a life, to impact your child with an encouraging word, to take your marriage to a new dimension, to see a dream come to life or to take your faith and spiritual life to another level. Be careful not to miss your moment. Elisha hands king Joash a bundle of arrows and says, “strike the ground.” Joash, oblivious to the opportunity, strikes three times and misses a chance to utterly destroy Israel’s enemy. Agrippa, hearing Paul’s persuading testimony, says, “Paul, you’ve almost persuaded me to be a Christian.” As far as we know, Agrippa never became a Christian, he misses his moment. You never know when a moment or a season of opportunity is coming to an end. It calls us to live with spiritual awareness every day. Too many times we find an excuse instead of opportunity. We look at moments and think it’s too expensive or difficult but it may be too expensive or costly not to act. The woman who had an issue of blood for twelve years hears that Jesus is coming to town. Rather than making excuses, reasoning why she shouldn’t, she chooses to seize her moment of opportunity. In that one moment, her entire life is changed. May I suggest we follow her lead. Seize your moment!
This is the time of year we marvel at Falls colors. Fall, God’s personal fireworks show. Leaves. Red. Orange. Yellow. Brown. Green. It’s even amazing the number of shades of red, orange and yellow there are. No two trees, even if they are the same variety, have the same color. Watching the spectacular colors begin to appear here in central Indiana I began to think how everything that God creates is unique. Every leaf has its own personal pattern, every snowflake has its own distinctive design and as Psalm 139:14 says, “each one of us are fearfully and wonderfully made.” One of the things that concerns me when someone comes to Christ is when they lose their color, their personality. Why is it that so many become beige and bland? Jesus’ disciples were as full of color as a Fall in Indiana. Simon Peter, egotistical and arrogant. James and John were called the Sons of Thunder. Thomas was chided as a doubter. Simon was a zealot longing for the overthrow of the Roman Empire. Spirit filled and Spirit led but individuals. I would suggest that Jesus likes our personality. It’s what makes us impactive. It’s what makes us distinctive. It’s what makes us effective in His Kingdom. He didn’t want twelve cookie cutters. He wanted 12 cast of characters. Coming to Christ should change your heart, not your personality. I like to put it this way, you be you or UBU.
When it comes to praying and understanding how God answers prayers there are two principles that we must keep in focus. Faith and endurance. Faith causes us to pray. Faith believes, ask and dreams that anything is possible with God. Faith knows God delivered a nation out of bondage in one night, that God parted the Red Sea, saved the Hebrews and destroyed the Egyptian army. Faith knows God shut the mouths of lions and stopped fire from burning three Hebrew men. Faith knows that Jesus healed the sick, opened the blinded eye and deaf ear, gave the lame the ability to walk and fed 5000 with five loaves and two fish. Faith knows God brought a young girl, a young man and Lazarus back from the dead. Faith knows that in our situation that God can heal, deliver, change anything or anyone and answer any prayer we pray. Endurance is the ability to wait. Endurance is the ability to not lose faith, get bitter or angry when the answer doesn’t come in our time or the way we expected. Endurance never doubts or wavers. Endurance stays the course when it hurts, when it gets hard or when we don’t understand. Endurance prays, prays and prays some more. Endurance never gives up. Endurance always believes. Endurance says there is no other option. Ask God to put faith and endurance in your spiritual life and you will go from, “can God, to God can!”
Back to School Service. It’s the day we take time out as a church community to pray over our students. A prayer cloth is given to each student to remind them that God is surrounding them. We hope they leave today knowing that they can be a person of great influence in their school. Though the challenges are great, the God that is with them is greater. This time that our kids are living in reminds me of Daniel. He was a young man, in a foreign land, that faced amazing adversity yet Daniel 6:3 says, “Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him.” What an amazing statement about this young man. In the midst of a dark world, devoid of God, facing the temptation to blend in, Daniel elected to stand out. He was a leader among leaders. While many around him were talented, gifted and intelligent, Daniel stood out because of His excellent Spirit. Where did it come from? His time spent in devotion with God which created a strong faith in God. To every student, stand out! Stand out by having excellent character. Stand out by going the extra mile. Stand out by having the best spirit. Stand out by living out your faith. Stand out and see where God might take you.
Your heart matters. In fact, God is more concerned about your heart than anything else. While I’m not here to diminish the importance of living Godly and Holy, it is the inside that God looks at and it is the inside that will produce a true Christ like lifestyle. In 2 Chronicles 30, Hezekiah’s heart is to bring His people’s lives and families back to God. The problem is no one is qualified to bring them to repentance and they had missed the Passover. Hezekiah’s hunger is a month late and would have to be performed by an unclean person. God has a dilemma. He has people who have hungry hearts but don’t have it all together. Hezekiah confesses the errors of his people and asks God, “will you hear our prayers, will you heal us?” In one of the more amazing moments in the Bible the scripture said that “the LORD hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people (2 Chron. 30:20).” What a moment of grace! Grace that is still available today. Five husbands and living with a sixth man, not a problem. Caught in the very act of adultery, not a problem. Thief and murderer breathing your last breath, not a problem. Grace showed up at a lonely well, at the screams of judgmental accusers and at the cross of a guilty man. Need grace today? Give Him an honest heart and His grace will show up.
The Dukan Diet. The Atkins Diet. The South Beach Diet. The Keto Diet. Weight Watchers. Jenny Craig. Nuitrisystem. So many diets, so many options all because so many of us have become what we eat. Too much sugar, too much starch, too many carbs, the list could go on and on. Our lives have been consumed by diets and fads all because of the fact that we simply need to be more disciplined and need help. Really it should be pretty easy, stay away from processed foods, sugars and eat a lot of stuff that comes from trees and the ground. What is true of the flesh is also true in the Spirit. Paul says all that is of the world is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life. Jesus said they that hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be fed. He calls Himself the “Bread of Life” and says that “all that come to Him shall never thirst again.” Basically, God says if we want to be spiritually healthy, if we want to have a right heart that it takes staying away from the world, pursuing Him, reading His Word and spending time. Getting worldly, carnal or feeling spiritually drained? Maybe it’s time to go on a diet. Get in His Word, get on your knees and get refilled with His Spirit.