Our home has been filled with the sounds of worship from the beginning of our marriage. Back in the day it was Kirk Franklin, Michael W. Smith and Phillips, Craig, and Dean. Our kids woke up to it, came home to it, and had to watch us seat dance in the car way too often. Still today, there are moments when we crank up the volume and get our dance on. And no, you can’t see it. There is one rule, no cell phones. We’ve recently discovered there’s a dance gene in our lineage. Each week we get to keep our grandson, Carter. He’s almost one now, and for the last three months he has begun to notice music. Sunday, we were with him at one of our favorite hamburger joints, Bub’s in Carmel. We had all just set down when suddenly it hits him, the boogie in his behind. Somewhere he hears music, and he is bouncing, waving his hands in the air, and occasionally doing the sprinkler. He fills the table with laughter, gives us a smile, and a look like, “what, don’t you hear the music too.” Carter’s love for music and the boogie in his behind has given he and I a common bond. He comes to visit often, free childcare for Jake and Risa, and purpose for Mary and me. Since we’ve discovered his love for music, I’ve made it my priority to peruse Spotify in search of something that might set off his boogie, and at the same time teach him some nursery rhymes and old school Sunday school songs. We’ve hit our common ground with a group called, Go Fish. It’s not the old, tired sound of kids, but a group doing some pretty amazing acapella stuff. They do some incredible remixes of nursery rhymes, Sunday school songs, and even some of the good old hymns. Carter’s current favorite is their version of “If you’re happy and you know it.” As soon as he hears the melody, it’s on, even before the first line of the song, he’s seat dancin’ and hand clappin’. We’ll kick on Spotify while he’s playing, suddenly, he stops playing with whatever toy he has, and begins busting a move. Some days it’s the Itsy Bitsy Spider and other times it’s the B-I-B-L-E song. But, what I love is that I’m getting to introduce him to some of the old school stuff too. He’s doesn’t realize it, but he does the same boogie with the Happy and you know it song when he hears, I’ll Fly Away, Victory in Jesus, and even one of my favorite seat dancing songs, Shackles on My Feet. How long will it last? I have no idea, but right now life can’t get much better than busting some moves with him. Paul had it right when he told the church in Ephesus, “Encourage each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord.” I only wish he’d went a tad further, dance and seat boogie often.
Sample Saturday was one of the favorite days around the Hudson home when our kids were growing up. After a long week of work and activities we would take a Saturday morning and go to Sam’s Club to stock up on groceries. What it meant to our kids was running to every tasting stand to sample whatever was being served in the little cups. Whether it was crackers or cookies, fruit or energy drinks, chicken, hot dogs, or shrimp, we would hit nearly every stand, and some of them multiple times. Reflecting back, I smile at the simple ways we found to make everyday chores fun, but as I was reminiscing, I realized something else too, that Sample Saturday never satisfied us. We got just enough food to whet our appetites but not nearly enough to fill our stomachs. Often the end of Sample Saturday would mean grabbing fast food, even though we had eaten a ton of samples, we needed to find a place that served a full meal.
I reflect on this because over the past three months Mary and I have been on a sabbatical. While on it, we’ve done something we’ve always wanted to do, visit other churches, see their systems and structure, participate in their worship environments, and hear the Word from different perspectives. It’s been quite the journey. As we’ve sampled nearly a dozen churches, we’ve walked away with a greater appreciation for the way we did church at Life Connections, the church we pastored for 20 years. Here’s a few things we discovered on our Sample Sundays.
First, was the challenge of being a guest and simply navigating the entry. In nearly every lobby we got the feeling you get when you need to buy a new car but dread going to the car lot, or the feeling you get when trying to negotiate the vendor areas at a Flower and Patio Show. Overly smiley people, who wanted us to feel like they were our best friends, that wanted us to know that they were really cool, but too often made us feel like we were dealing with someone who was trying to sell us a fake Rolex. To every hospitality team, know three things. One, we want to come and find our seats unnoticed, discreetly, without feeling like we have to go through a receiving line at a wedding. Second, we really don’t need everyone in the building to know were “the guest” and we definitely don’t need everyone to clap for us, we’re really okay if you simply say, “if you’re a guest we’re honored that you’ve come to visit.” Finally, we don’t need parting gifts, i.e., your coffee mug, we have one from the other 11 churches we visited, and they are all going to the same place, Goodwill.
Second, unless the church was self-consumed and out of touch with the rest of society, nearly every worship service felt like we were living in Bill Murray’s Ground Hogs Day movie. Same show, different building. Every venue had three pre-planned songs, no more or less, that featured a mixture of the latest trendy hits sprinkled with one of the 14 songs you hear on K-Love. Every show featured vocally gifted people who were trendily dressed, and each place had studio quality sound and lighting, but there was not much depth in the worship experience. Worship teams. Please! Get away from your script, learn to lean in and follow the Spirit, call an audible in the middle of worship, have a goal of creating vertical worship and ushering us into the presence of God where we lose track of our cell phones and our life issues. Cause us to lose track of time and take us to a place where we are consumed by His presence. We will gladly trade your incredibly talented singers and musicians for an experience that takes us into a place where we can cry, feel unexplainable joy, and sense the overwhelming awe of God’s glory and presence.
Third, we were overwhelmed by the number of gifted pastors and their ability to share the gospel. There are some really amazing and talented pastors who are sincere and studied. We walked away from so many churches with incredible notes and relevant issues to work on in our lives. The one issue we struggled with was that there were too many series and messages that felt like we were setting through Ted Talks. Pastors. Make it personal. Be energetic, excited, and exuberant. Let us feel your passion. Let us sense your desperation and hunger. Let us experience God. Give us a fresh Word from Heaven instead of the latest trendy series, church growth program, or featured book.
Finally, churches, would it be too much to ask that you make room for God. Way too many places had church down to a formula, a science, or an unbreachable schedule. In most places there was no liberty for God to move or a time for people to experience His overwhelming presence. Please make room for God moments, call an audible, have a suddenly. Rarely, in any church was there a place for a response to the Word preached, for someone to pray with another person, for an opportunity to make a commitment after being impacted by the Word you just heard. We don’t want some kind of crazed demonstrative response, only room for the miraculous, for healing, for someone to engage with a person who had had their heart stirred, for tears to fall freely, for the Holy Spirit to have freedom, for the possibility of someone walking away impacted by the power of God. We grieved as we left so many services, longing for more than a sample, more than Jesus light, more than an hour and fifteen minute gathering before the next service or returning the next week. We left many places brokenhearted and wishing people had the opportunity to experience a service where they could be impacted by the life altering touch of God’s presence.
I am nobody, but if I could humbly offer a word to any pastor, lead or worship team, it would simply be this. Pray more. Be Spirit led. Be an original, not a copy. Focus on giving people more than a Sample Saturday experience on Sunday. Give them more than a little plastic cup of Jesus. To those looking for a church for your family I would say, find one that gives you a full five-course unforgettable feast. Find one that causes you to say, I came, I saw, I heard, I felt, I experienced, and I can’t wait to go back. Find a place that gives you more than a sample and a coffee cup, find one that causes you to leave saying, I encountered Jesus like I never have before.
Author’s Note: If you are a member of Life Connections, know that after visiting many amazing churches, Mary and I want you to appreciate how blessed you are to be a part of LC. What is happening through your new Lead Pastors, Philip and Annie Daigle is unique and special. If you are not a part of Life and you live in central Indiana, you should seriously consider planning a visit.
Asbury. For decades it’s been known as a place of prayer, a place of revival, a place where God visits. Yesterday we took a drive to be a part, to experience a sacred move of God. As soon as we stepped on to the campus, we felt a different atmosphere. The line to get into the building was subdued, a reverence, a quiet hush, we were entering into something like we never had. As we entered Hughes Hall, we knew we had entered a different realm, something we had never experienced before. I didn’t want to see or be seen. Instantly, I wanted to set down in my seat and fade into the fabric of the authentic and genuine presence of God, and I did. I didn’t need to speak nor hear or be heard, I simply needed to listen. Listen to the voices, listen to worship, listen to the piano…listen to the Spirit of God. In this room there are no organizations, religions, doctrines or creeds, there is one focus, Jesus. In this room it doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are, the color of your skin, your social or educational background, what you are wearing, all that matters is Jesus. We are from different states and nations, but we are one in passion, a hunger, and it’s all about Jesus. The focus is not on miracles, signs, or wonders. There is no one pushing, prodding, or commanding you to worship or respond in a certain manner. While well known Christian leaders are showing up, they are not being recognized or acknowledged, they too fade into the fabric of what is happening. There is a pureness in the room, a clean desire for God’s presence. One phrase describes the rooms atmosphere, a hunger to be in God’s pure presence. The petitions of prayers aren’t about asking, simply praises of adoring, adulation, and about the wonder and splendor of the magnificent God we serve. If there is any request, it seems to be, “God forgive us of our sins.” There is no schedule here, in fact there seems to be no time. There was a beginning, but at the moment there seems to be no ending. The next song isn’t on a piece of paper and there has been no preparation, the moment is feeble and simply follows the flow of the Spirit, like a river flowing without boundaries. There is no pressure to stand or sit, no command to raise your hands or shout, just embrace the Spirit as it is speaking to you. In this place you feel humble, small, and insignificant, God is here, and He is being high and lifted up and His train is filling the temple. If one is not comfortable, not at home here, then you won’t be at home in heaven. No man, no person is the focus. There is no fleshy singing, no singer by action or by talent is saying, “look at me.” No keyboard, guitar, or bass player drawing attention to themselves, there is a unity of focus, the glory is going to Jesus and Him alone. Even as I write it feels so unsacred, but a scribe, an author, must write down what is happening today, so we don’t get lost in living in yesterday. This generation must know of these events and of a living God. Today, here at Asbury, as in heaven, so on earth, all glory belongs to Him who sits on the throne. This is what church across America should look like. This is what America needs. Please! As they are pleading at Asbury, bring the experience to your heart and home. Our world is starving for more than an hour and fifteen minute Jesus appetizer, more than a manipulated move, or a lifeless experience. Asbury is a cry from a world hungry for an authentic experience with God.
The array of colorful fall leaves. Pumpkins. Crisp Nights. Bonfires. Warm apple cider. Hayrides. Just the words and you want to throw on a pair of jeans and a flannel shirt. After a long hot summer, there is nothing like that first forecast of fall temperatures. At the Hudson home the first hint of fall means it’s time for the fall décor. Suddenly our home has more foliage than a small forest, pumpkins are on the porch, and fall pillows and a farm truck fill the bench in our entry. It’s amazing how just a subtle change in temperature can have such an impact on our life. May I suggest the same can happen in your spiritual life. A subtle change can alter the course of your family. Start your day with a few moments of devotion or throw on some worship music and watch what can happen. Often your heart, spirit, and even your attitude changes. Things that might annoy you or set off tension in the home suddenly disappear. The kids getting up late is met with a gentle response. The spouse who forgot they had an early morning meeting, instead of being met with a rolling of the eyes, is met with a cup of coffee and a kiss. You see more sunshine, more smiles, and have more grace on those around you. Why not give it a try? As easy as it is to accept the changing of the seasons when the temperature changes, so it can be when we change the atmosphere of our life. As we pull out our flannel, rekindle your faith. Let’s make a change, not only our wardrobe and décor, but the atmosphere of our homes.
Creating a spiritual atmosphere in your life and home is critical to your overall success. Whether it’s in your church, home, individual life, having the ambience of the Spirit is of upmost importance. David created an atmosphere of integrity early in his life. His ruthless band of men became enamored when David refused to seize the moment and kill King Saul, in so doing he created an atmosphere of trust in a group of men who trusted no one. Paul and Silas set in a jail bruised and battered with a choice between whining and worshiping. They chose to worship and dark, dreary, and oppressive jail became a sanctuary of praise. Changing the atmosphere opened cell doors, released other prisoners, and brought a jailer and his family to God. What atmosphere are you creating? Are you a part of bringing an electric atmosphere to Life Connections? Is your home a home where there is a negative or positive vibe? Do people walk away from you downcast or exhilarated? Each day we chose the atmosphere will create. At Life we’ve been intentional over the years to create two specific atmospheres. One of prayer and the other yielding to the Spirit. We understand that for any ministry to be impactive it must be saturated with prayer. We also know that everything we do, and in every moment, we must allow the Spirit to have liberty. Paul said in 2 Corinthians that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” These two atmospheres are not accidents at Life but have been intentionally created. They are our DNA and what we must make sure never fades or lose relevance. How about your home? What is the atmosphere inside your four walls? Take time this week to reflect and pray about the atmosphere of your home and then set to create a place that your friends and family will love to visit.
In Matthew 7 Jesus speaks of two men who built houses. One dug deep and built on rock, while the other carelessly built his home on sand. Inevitably, a storm came and both houses were battered. Once the storm passed, the house built on rock was standing, while the house built on sand was destroyed. Jesus’ premise. Storms come to everyone. Those who build on strong foundations survive. It’s critical that we have a strong relationship with God to survive storms. Because storms come, God had the Hebrew people wear scriptures on their clothing to remind them of important principles, and He instituted the Passover as a reminder of how He provided their escape from Egypt. Now it’s 2021 and we face new challenges. Spiritual darkness is rampant, many are distorting God’s Word and we’re living in a world that is on information overload. How do we survive? Build your life on a strong foundation. Jesus called himself the chief cornerstone and said His Word was forever settled in heaven. That’s where we must start; by getting back to the basics and owning our relationship with Jesus and His Word. That is what The Search is about, finding ownership and getting understanding of God’s Word. Worship is energetic and emotionally charged, but like a good meal, it quickly dissipates, and we wait for the next refill. Inspirational messages are wonderful, they lift our faith, inspires us to love, show mercy, and embrace grace, but we need more. We need substance, foundation, structure. How does that happen? We must read God’s Word, understand, study, pray and live it. The Search. This is where it begins. This is where we take ownership, this is where we start building a strong foundation. This is where we say as David did, “your word have I hid in my heart.”
My early days with music was a transistor radio on warm summer days and a record player at night. A component stereo with a hifi-record player was a sure sign that you had arrived, as long as your vinyl didn’t have a scratch. Add a double cassette recorder to a 125-watt stereo amp and you could rock a room. There’s nothing like Andre Crouch at 100-watts in a 10×10 bedroom. I thought I had arrived when I hopped on my bike, took off with headphones in my ears and a Sony Walkman attached to my hip jamming to Michael W. Smith. You don’t know how much you’ve been cheated in life if you haven’t used a pencil to straighten out a cassette tape or spent a few hours digging tape out of an 8-track player. Thankfully, CD’s brought a new dimension to music, digital. Within a few years, digital went from CD’s to iPods, Spotify and a plethora of ways to get music. Whether it’s been radios, record players, stereos, boom boxes, Walkman’s, 8-track players, CD players, iPods or Spotify; the purpose has always been the same, music. While the methods of delivery have changed, music is an important part of our lives. Why? Music stirs emotions and brings hope to the heart. Music brings a frenzy to a gym, romance to a room and passion to prayer. Paul said, “speak to yourself in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” and David said, ”sing a new song to the Lord.” It doesn’t matter what generation or device; music brings us into God’s presence. Get your favorite device, get your spiritual songs or playlist and get into God’s presence and get encouraged!
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.
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.
Today we celebrate 15 years of Life. From a garage sale and weekly Bible studies in our home, to the Goddard School, to Brooks School Elementary and now, to its current campus, on 126th, it’s been quite the journey. It’s surreal to think that Life has been a church for fifteen years. In so many ways March 7, 2004 seems like yesterday. That was the day we stepped into Brooks School Elementary for our first weekly service. We were naive, young and unexperienced. I was 40, Mary was 36, Gentry was seven and Risa five. That Sunday about forty of us joined together to worship and over the next five years we watched as the congregation grew. Sunday services were at Brooks School and Wednesday’s in our home. In the fall of 2007 we got the miraculous call from the Coffey family, and I heard the words I’ll never forget, “we want to donate five and a half acres to the church.” Plans began to form, construction began in 2008 and in 2009. It was during that time that Bill and Anita James saw the vision and jumped in during our construction phase. In April of 2009 we moved in and later that year we celebrated five years with Pastor Chester Mitchell from Ashburn, Virginia. Finally having a home, Life began to grow and new team members came on board. Willie and Ashley Travis and Erik and Brittany Poling soon made Life their home and suddenly Life began to minister in new dimensions. 2010 and 2011 brought musical groups, Royal Taylor and The Experience Band. It was our time with the Experience Band that we met Korey Elkins and a few years later he began to lead our worship. In 2014, we celebrated 10 years as a church and our personal 25 years of ministry. Rex Johnson came from Austin, Texas and challenged us to “follow the Spirit.” The last five years brought both tremendous challenges and changes, but through commitment to prayer, following after God’s leading and continuing growth that brought amazing people to help, we watched as God did miraculous things. The growth brought challenges to our Kids and Youth ministry and it became obvious that we needed to expand. With the vision of our Board of Directors, Don Baldwin, Tarren Cruz, Milford Hudson, Andy Purcell, Lance Russom and Don Starks we broke ground in the fall of 2017. As we celebrate 15 years today, we have nearly completed Phase Two. Where do we go from here? We cannot rest, God has given us more to do! “Church without Walls,” taking life to the world through live video, is coming soon and plans are already complete for Phase Three; an expanded lobby and nursery, a social gathering space with a small café and several large educational rooms. Beyond that, who knows where God will lead. But today we stop to give Him glory for all He has done and celebrate 15 incredible years of Life!
The year, and especially the past nine months, had seen more twist, turns, ups and downs than a roller-coaster. It was more than they could have ever imagined. The announcement of their engagement had filled their lives with celebration, travel, gifts and preparation for marriage. Nowhere in their engagement script was a pregnancy. They were virtuous and God-fearing people. Their family had taught them the law with passion and they loved God with all their heart. But a visit of an angel to Mary brought news beyond comprehension. She was stunned and speechless, filled with joy but at the same time feeling the sting of the overwhelming challenges. To be the one chosen to be overshadowed by the Spirit and bring God to earth was the greatest of honor. To explain it to her family and soon to be groom was nearly an impossible task. Joseph’s angelic dream brings some strength and hope to the moment, but still there are doubts. Those doubts would visit often; the thought of divorce would surface in his mind almost daily. Resolve moves into both of their hearts and they decide they will believe in the words from Heaven. That the pregnancy was supernatural and that God was truly growing inside of a teenager from Nazareth. Though they believed, others didn’t. There were endless questions from their parents. Friends strayed and foes judged. There are whispers, innuendo and downright rude gazes. That an angel visited a young couple from Nazareth with a prophetic word, and teenagers at that, was just too much. May we suggest that there was even mockery. There is an incredible moment when Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth; her baby leaps with joy inside her womb. There came flashes of hope when Joseph and Mary were alone and realized, it’s God in her womb. The end of the pregnancy brings yet another challenge. Herod has called for a tax, one that required families to return to the home of their birth. So, nine months pregnant, they begin a pilgrimage. It too is filled with challenges. Dangerous travel, poor weather and challenging terrain are all a part of the journey. Mary, days from birthing a child, must keep up with the caravan. For nearly two weeks, through rain, cold and wind they walk. Down mountain paths, across deserts and then a fifteen-mile ascent through rocky cliffs. When it seems as though it can’t get any more overbearing, it does. Bethlehem, a wide gap in the road on the journey to Jerusalem is their destination. They arrive in the small village only to find the family house already filled with relatives. No room in the house, they are relegated to the stable behind the house. Cold, damp, smelly; what place could be lowlier for the birth of any child, much less God in flesh. A stable, a place for animals now houses God. In the midst of all the hardship and difficulty, when no one could see the possibility, Joseph and Mary likely feeling hurt, lost and forgotten have no idea that the world changed. That night would be end of so much and the beginning of so much more. No one knew that in that moment the dateline would change from B.C. to A.D. No one knew that night that the sheep He laid among would never again have to die for the sins of a man. It was just a rough nine months for two obscure teenagers who believed the impossible could happen through them. Who could have imagined? Probably not Joseph and Mary. Whatever this year has held, whether hills and valleys, twist and turns you’ve walked through, know three things. First, the journey can be hard but you will make it. Second, regardless of how it looks in the moment, the impossible may be taking place in the midst of the most difficult situation. Finally, like Joseph and Mary, God has been with you, is with you and will always be with you. Christmas. The celebration of change!
Weeds. You don’t have to plant them, water them or care for them in any way. They just grow; anywhere, anytime, anyplace. I planted a garden and now I’m attempting to grow a garden. I’ve pulled weeds, tilled soil, bought garden soil, planted plants and kept them watered. This week I walked out to my garden and in just a few days the weeds had grown larger than my plants. What I’ve come to understand is that I have to be intentional about my garden. I have to regularly water it, pull the weeds and protect from insects and animals. What’s true in the natural is also true in the spiritual. It takes nothing for the cares of life, temptation and sins take over our life. They just show up. To have a spiritual life we must be as meticulous as we are with a garden. The soil of our soul must be enriched with the atmosphere of prayer and praise. We must plant the Word of God in our heart and keep it in our heart. David said, thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you. We must be committed to staying filled with the Holy Spirit. It is the power that fuels our spiritual growth and brings out the fruit and the gifts of the Spirit. Be intentional, as Paul said in Ephesians 5:18, “be filled with the Spirit.”
The calendar says it’s still spring. The activities and heat say it’s summer. Heat and humidity are here and plants and grass are already gasping for water. What we need is a storm. A gully washer. A downpour. Though we enjoy the fun of the sun, we need the storms. Without storms we don’t get the necessary rain. Storms slow us down. Storms bring clouds to shade us from the sun, breezes that purge the dead limbs, and water to the areas that are in drought. What is true in nature is true in the spiritual. We enjoy the good times, when troubles are few and life is light. But then God sends a storm. Something that rocks our world, slows us down and brings us to our knees. Not always what we want, but often what we need. Without storms we can burn ourselves out. Without storms, areas in our lives that need a purge, would never be cleaned out. Without storms, the refreshing of God’s Spirit that brings our hearts back to life, wouldn’t come. Going through a storm? Be thankful. He see’s something in our lives that is dying. Something in our heart or soul that needs watered. He allows a spiritual rain, disguised as a storm, to come into our lives. He sees we need a pause. A rest. A time of refreshing. He’s the God in the storm and when it’s time He’ll say, “peace be still.”
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!
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!
For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.
Watching the pageantry, splendor and parade of ancient mythological Greek gods at the opening of the 2004 Olympics brought the above verse to my mind. While the ceremony was beautiful to watch, it was sad reminder of a society that once was great but lost its morals, direction and worshiped any god a mind could imagine. Paul steps on Mars Hill 2000 years ago to a lost people and proclaims, “Him declare I unto you.”
Today, we live in a society that mirrors that of the ancient Greeks; great emphasis on sports, worshipping god of all type and pleasure is our highest purpose. Now, like then, we need Christians to proclaim, “I know the God you desire.” His name is Jesus. Jesus, not made of stone but able to be touched by your every burden is the answer. Lets give them Jesus!