It’s two weeks until Passover and tensions are high. Some good men have tossed and turned for months losing sleep. They’ve had more meetings than Gen Z’s have collaboration sessions. Their issue? Trying to figure a way to rid themselves of a three-year problem. They have debated and discussed different possibilities for hours on end and they have finally concluded that the changes they would have to make would cost too much, so rather than change, someone else will. The seed of selfishness is always about us. Our comfort. Our titles and positions. Our rituals and traditions. Caiaphas’ comes up with the solution, “one man must die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish” (John 11:50). These were good men. Men of prayer. They dressed well, knew scripture, and really had a good grasp on doctrine and theology. In fact, in many ways they agreed with much of what Jesus said, but the changes He was suggesting were just too radical. They had to protect the past, secure their traditions, and safeguard rules for the future. Circumcision was an unnegotiable, leaving the sacrificial system absurd, and redefining the Law. . . heresy. The decision for one man to pay the cost to quelch this uprising appeared so easy. Religion is famous for abandoning those who don’t measure up to those who are self-righteous. Self-righteousness knows no boundaries. Those who must protect their traditions will reject anyone who suggest it can be any other way but theirs. It’s not a person, it’s a spirit, or spirits; selfishness, arrogance, envy, and pride just to name a few. Their spiritual comfort supersedes any broken person or lost soul. People are disposable. Whatever the cost, whomever we must abandon, whomever we must hurt, at all costs, we must protect our comfortable environments. So, Jesus becomes the cost of change. Abandoned and rejected, He hangs on a cross for no crime other than loving lost and broken humanity and changing the spiritual religious landscape. He welcomed too many sinners. Used too many broken people and didn’t wear their righteous robes. He was too common and His message too radical. He pays the price because the religious elite wouldn’t. It’s 2000 years later but the same spirits remain. The Jesus Revolution Movie wasn’t about the first or second time Christianity has rejected change, it has happened for centuries, and will until Jesus comes. It’s always easier to live in the atmosphere of comfort than the culture of change. Jesus dies, resurrects, and radical change explodes in an Upper Room 50 days later. But realize this, something else died when Jesus died. The religion of those who refused to change. They became a subculture, important only in their own minds. They became relics, obsolete, and irrelevant. Who goes to a church today where one of the questions for membership is, have you been circumcised? Anyone attend a church where they still wear gowns, tunics, and long robes? Anyone go to Texas Roadhouse and ask, “was the steak used as a sacrifice to idols?” If not, you’ve changed and would be rejected. These were the issues of their day, but not today. This lets us know that change is constant. Traditions are just that, traditions, not laws. They all eventually change or become irrelevant. I’ve walked into way too many irrelevant churches and stepped into too many restaurants and business that are no longer in existence because they rebuffed the winds of change. If you really want to live, not exist, you must embrace change. A warning, change is costly. Ask Nicodemus, his own crew abandoned and rejected him for making a change, following Jesus. Make a note of this; we know Nicodemus’ name but none of theirs. Mark 6 shows us that Jesus’ own earthly family struggled with the changes He was proclaiming, and that He could do no miracles in His hometown. Why? Change is hard and comfort is easy. Our adversary delights, embraces, and feeds on those who cling to their comfort. I know that in my own life change is hard because I love my old and comfortable ways. Change is painful because we know there are cost, that people will discard and desert you. Finally, change is difficult because it’s God challenging us to trust Him beyond what we can see or understand. Change is a must though if we are truly “seeking first the kingdom.” In our lives, Mary and I have always sought to embrace God’s challenges, to follow after the Spirit, and that has meant that we have had to embrace change. In every instance we knew it came with costs. I knew organizations would abandon me, and colleagues would reject me. We knew that friends and family would object and that some would call us “lost sheep.” Yet, we’ve never wavered in Truth and we’re still the same passionate people of prayer, who spend hours in the Word, and are consumed about broken and lost people. There were changes when I knew when I walked into the room I was going to lose people and there were changes where I knew was going to lose income and influence. But in those moments, what was always my priority was knowing, that if I rejected the challenge of change that God was asking me to make, that I would be out of His will and putting my comfort ahead of His kingdom. How about you. Do you live for your comfort? Do you live to please others? Or is His will and Kingdom above all? We must remember this, at all costs, the Kingdom is always more important than our comfort. That’s the message of Jesus on the cross.
Author: jon hudson
Rarely do we get a day with mid-sixties temperature in February in central Indiana, but a couple of weeks ago we had one, giving me a chance to get out to one of my favorite places, our back yard. Nothing too serious, no yard work, just some solitude and time to reflect and observe life. Setting there, my attention was arrested by some birds, a woodpecker, a blue jay, a couple of cardinals, and a handful of finches and sparrows. Watching them fly through the trees, I saw God. I saw the creative nature of my creator and His passion for distinctiveness. Their colors were vibrantly different, their songs remarkably diverse, even their flight patterns were unique. Each a distinctive example of His amazing creative design. Watching the birds, my eyes eventually drift to the trees. It’s winter, so the trees are obviously barren, and again, I see God. Normally leaves cover their branches, but today, with no leaves, I notice their imperfections, and that nearly every branch reaches toward the sky. My mind went to Romans 1 where Paul says, “does not nature itself teach us of God.” Each branch, it seemed, was reaching in exaltation for the heavens. I noticed that the ones that didn’t, had been hindered by other branches, and though constrained, they had changed direction, either turning toward the ground, or curling, trying to find another route upwards toward the sky. Turning from the trees, I see frost, and once again, I see God. Where the sun is shining, the frost is melted and there is a glistening dew, but where there is an absence of light, the cold chill of frost remains. What an amazing parallel to the power and love of God. Where His light shines in the world there is life, but where He is ridiculed and viewed with disdain, there is darkness and fear. I take a mental note; seeing God isn’t that difficult, it’s just a matter of having an awareness. Isaiah, an ordinary man, said, “I saw the Lord, high and lifted up, His train filled the Temple.” He wasn’t some kind of spiritual superhero; just a man who lived sensitively to God. I wonder how many that day had the opportunity to see what Isaiah saw but were just too busy. I wonder too if Isaiah’s view is closer to all of us than we can imagine. That just maybe, if we too would take time, get off our devices, slow down, start looking, stop talking, listened, and lived more sensitive, that we too might see God in His splendor and power.
Do the Right Thing
This weekend we watched the movie Jesus Revolution. It’s the story about Chuck Smith and Greg Laurie, two men who were integral in the Jesus Revolution movement in the 1970’s. I won’t wreck the story, but too surmise the movie, Chuck Smith, a pastor, is faced with one major life changing choice, to stay in the comfort and confines of religion, tradition and ritual, or the choice of doing the right thing and opening the doors of his church to a generation who was hungry for God. Chuck knew his decision would come at a great price, his reputation, friendships, and finances all would be affected, but he also understood the price of not doing the right thing. He chose to open the doors and he became a major player in the Jesus Revolution. Understand that doing the right thing is never easy. There will always be consequences and great cost. Though Chuck saw major success after making his choice, that is not always the case. Often doing the right thing brings pain, misunderstanding, and hurt. Doing the right thing may cost you your reputation, friendships, and often means times of uncertainty. It often cost more than we want to pay. It often goes against the grain of tradition. If you question that, take a look at the cost Jesus paid for going against the grain. In my early years of ministry, a situation developed where I knew I was going to have to make a decision, whether to defend a friend or allow a wrong to continue. It wasn’t easy, but I decided to defend my friend, knowing the cost would be heavy. Near the end of the story, I stood in the office of a minister who I highly esteemed, unwilling to compromise my integrity. I knew that my character would be attacked, that I would lose my job, and that my future held a lot of uncertainty. I had a young wife, two kids, and no idea of how we would survive, but as I walked out the door of his office that night I walked out with my personal integrity, self-worth, and dignity. I had done the right thing. I lost my job, but gained the attention of God. There are critical times in our lives when we must choose to do the right thing. There are seasons when we hurt our spouses. There have been times when I’ve hurt Mary and she could have ran, but she stood by me. Though difficult, she did the right thing. There was a moment in our life when Mary was incredibly fearful I was going to abandon her. She was sick, broken, and very afraid I was going to leave her, but I reminded her of the vow I made to her, “that for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, I would never forsake her.” Unfortunately, in difficult moments, too many people do what is convenient, not what is right. A few years ago, God challenged me to make a change at the church we pastored. I had prayed for months, fasted, and poured over scripture. I knew the challenge God laid before me was going to come at a heavy cost, but I also knew that if I didn’t obey, I would be living outside of what he had asked me to do. As I walked into the board room that night, I knew I was going to lose family, close friends, and it there would be financial implications. It would have been easier to bow to tradition, but that night I knew I had to do what God had challenged me to do, to open the doors of His church to more hungry people. It was one of the most painful and difficult seasons of our lives, it has cost Mary and I so much more than we wanted to give. We lost close relationships, were abandoned by ministers, and shunned by many, but we’ve watched the church go into another dimension because we did what was right, not what was easy. I must warn you, the challenge of doing what is right never ends. Two years ago, after a Wednesday night service, God spoke to my heart and said, you are finished, you have completed your task at Life Connections. I remember getting in the car and sharing my heart with Mary, we wept, there was unity, and even though we were filled with uncertainty, we knew instantly it was the right thing. We left the campus, called our kids, and asked them to meet us at our daughter’s home. We shared what God had spoken to us with them; we all wept, it was a painful and difficult moment. Even though they didn’t totally understand, they agreed to pray with us and said they would support our decision. The next day we began to pray for God to direct us on how to proceed. As the process began to unfold, we began to realize it was going to cost us more than we wanted, and it was going to bring more change than we anticipated. We knew the right thing was going to come at a great amount of personal financial loss. We began to understand that there was going to be a tremendous void in our lives, and that it was going to leave us with no certain future or direction. Truthfully, it would have been easier to meander along, to stay the course, to hold on, but it would have also meant we would have been out of the will of God, that we would be living selfishly, and so many in our community would miss experiencing what God had for them. We had no choice but to do the right thing. So, we did. We left comfort for uncertainty. This weekend, after being away from our church for two months, we were able to go back for the celebration and installation of the new pastors, Phil and Annie Daigle. It was absolutely amazing! The foundation we had built was being built on. There was so much life. So many people who were growing. So many new faces. We left confident that the future is bright and knowing what is hard for us is good for others. Know this, in your career, your life, and in your family it will always be easier to do what is convenient over what is right. When you do what is right there is no guarantee of success, no guarantee that it won’t be painful, difficult, or lonely, but we can attest to this, that when you obey God, you will always be able to lay your head on the pillow of your bed and say, I did the right thing. There is no greater peace.
Asbury. Absorb it. Bring it Home.
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.
Asbury. Quit Messing with the Narrative
Setting three rows behind the student section in Hughes Hall at Asbury University, we are witnessing something uniquely amazing. God’s Spirit is being entertained by hundreds of young men and women under the age of 25 and thousands of people from around the world have come to join them. In front of me a young man has caught my attention. Ten years ago, I would have been appalled if my daughter would have introduced him to me as someone she might be interested in spending the rest of her life with. He didn’t fit my narrative, scraggly beard, and mustache. Long hair with a short ponytail sticking through a baseball cap he’s wearing backwards. He’s wearing jeans, tennis shoes, and a sweatshirt and he has a smile that could melt butter. Some would call his attire disrespectful, but no one could deny that this guy is absolutely crazy about Jesus. He’s a yo-yo, but not in a bad way. The entire time we’ve been a part of the service he’s been standing and singing with all his heart, hands raised, setting in his chair weeping and repenting, or on the floor on his knees praying, often sobbing in brokenness or humility. When there is a call to pray with someone, he’s the first to interact with the person next to him, when there is a call to pray with anyone with their hands raised, he’s climbing over chairs, praying with as much sincerity as I’ve ever seen. When the service turns back to worship, he’s all in, totally engrossed in the moment. Suddenly, I hear him as he begins to pray in the spirit, not in a crazed way, but humbly and with so much authenticity. More than once you could sense that he was what some Christians would call, “lost in the Spirit,” overwhelmed by God’s presence. This young man is smart, sensible, solid and spiritual and he is really messing with pretty Christianity. The Pharisees of our day would surely reject him, he doesn’t fit their narrative. He doesn’t fit in the pristine Christian box of how Jesus would look or act. He wouldn’t be allowed to minister on their platforms or be a part of many ministries. I can hear them now, “nice guy, but he just doesn’t fit our narrative. Clean up, look the way we’ve designed Christianity to look, and come back and see us when you are Holy like us.” Funny, what the religious elite rejected two-thousand years ago is still rejected today. This young man makes me wonder how many of today’s “Christians” would reject Jesus and twelve ordinary men. I get the feeling Jesus and the disciples would be too messy for their narrative. After a day being a part of something very special happening in a small college in a little town in Kentucky we turn to leave. Our friend is back on the floor, weeping, sobbing, praying in the Spirit, and crying out to Jesus. My bet is he doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon, he’s got several water bottles and a small bag with some food. I’ve seen some peanut butter and crackers and some fruit snacks, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are five loaves and two fish in there. Today I’ve decided I don’t own Jesus my way, His sovereignty, and the way He moves, or who He calls and uses. If you’re brave enough, pray, “God mess with my narrative.” We are living in an hour when God is asking religious people, will it be your way or mine; your narrative or mine. The real question is how will we respond? 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.
PLEASE READ: Asbury. Absorb It. Bring it Home. (Tap title to read)
Why I Believe in God. My Story
I have been a follower of Jesus since I was 15 and I have been in full-time ministry for over 35 years. I’ve spent 15 years as an instructor at a Christian College and another 20 years as pastor of Life Connections. I’ve made it a priority to consume my Bible, not to study for a class or preach a sermon, but to know God. Since a teenager, I have been a man of prayer. I made prayer, learning to call and depend on God, one of the highest priorities of teaching in my college classes and I made prayer the greatest priority of the church we pastored in Fishers. For over 10 years Mary and I spent every Saturday evening praying for our Sunday services, asking that God would have precedence over any agenda or plan that we might have. I confess that nearly all my messages came, not from books or other’s sermons, but from being at an altar on a Saturday night searching for God’s will and a word for His people. We held monthly Prayer Services at our church for years and Mary and I circled our city on the first Wednesday of every month for 13 years. I have experienced the same Spirit filled dynamic that the apostles did in the book of Acts and been in many vibrant services where I have been overwhelmed by God’s presence. I have preached thousands of messages and prepared more Bible studies for college curriculum and our church community than you can imagine. Yet, I must confess I have seasons of doubt. Moments when I question God. Moments when I wonder, is there really a God, is He real. Sorry to be so raw, but transparency has always been a part of my life and ministry.
You may ask, why or how, could someone with all the study, time in prayer, experiences, and teaching have doubts and questions. First, I’ve seen too many wonderful people face heartache, pain, sickness, disease, and death that didn’t make sense. I don’t understand kids that are abused by their parents, war hurting innocent people, torture, famine, and the tragedy of natural disasters. I question why those who do evil succeed and have wealth, and those who do right live broken and struggle to make ends meet. Condemn me if you want, I’ve preached the messages you are preaching to me as you are reading this, but sometimes still, life just doesn’t make sense and it hurts. I know Paul says, “we see through a glass darkly,” and I’ve sang “by and by when the morning comes. . . we’ll understand it better by and by.” I struggle because I’ve prayed prayers for years, not days, not weeks but years that are still in the “wait,” or “no” categories. Some were selfish but others I am confident were not. In particular, I prayed as a college instructor that my students would experience an authentic move of God’s presence, no manipulation or hype, just a sovereign move that would be life altering. From the beginning of my pastorate, I prayed for myself, my family, and our community to experience an outpouring as in the book of Acts, Azusa, or like any moment in history when God overwhelmed the world with His presence. Now, after 20 years, and turning the church over to another minister, I anguish that we never got to lead people into the experience I had prayed for so desperately. So, how do I hang on? Why do I still believe? Two moments in my life.
One was an answered prayer. The answer came after a stage four breast cancer diagnosis in my wife, Mary, in December of 2015. Unfortunately, even though we had prayed, and even saw evidence of God’s working, Mary had to have a double mastectomy. It was three days after the surgery that we got the call from our very shaken cancer doctor, the words he spoke were spoken with confusion, disbelief, yet with glee, we wept uncontrollably when we heard him say, “there is no cancer in your limp nodes, I can’t explain it, but there is nothing.” He couldn’t come up with a logical explanation, but we knew instantly that God had healed Mary. Such a complete healing that after several follow-up appointments the doctor said there will be no radiation, no chemo, no five- or ten-year medicine’s, in fact, you never have to come back. Seven years later, she has still never returned.
The second life experience is my overwhelming reason I believe. More than my book of Acts experience, my knowledge of God’s Word, or Mary’s healing, it was a moment in a prayer service. These prayers services had been happening periodically for a couple of years. They were never hyped, no B-3 organ, no healing prophet, just organic prayer by people of faith for people who were sick, broken, hurting, and desperate. In this particular service I was one of several who had been invited to pray with those who would come to the front. We had been praying for people in cycles for over an hour and as the next group made their way to the front, a young man stood in front of me, I didn’t know his name, nor his story, and I still don’t. As I began to pray over him, and in a moment, something happened, not to him, but to me. My hand was on his shoulder and suddenly I felt a rush of electricity, a fire, a burning go through my body, almost like I had been shocked. I instantly stepped back, shaking, tears in my eyes, feeling overwhelmed, and honestly, confused. I sat down and wept, still feeling energy in my body and at a total loss as to what had just happened. The evening ended and when I got in the car, I told Mary about my experience. She was perplexed as well, but asked a question, “do you think maybe God healed you of your hay fever and allergies?” I remember saying, I don’t know, but I guess it’s possible.” For clarity, my hay fever and allergies were incredibly severe. I took the highest doses of prescription level Flonase and Claritin. I was allergic to dust, basically myself, and from July through October my eyes would swell shut, so severely that there would be days that I would have to cancel lectures. The day after my experience I woke up with no swelling or sneezing. The same thing happened the next day and the next. A week or so later I stopped using Flonase and Claritin and I haven’t needed or used either of them for over twenty-five years. I have no allergies and no clue when hay fever season is, except when I see someone else struggling. I am indescribably whole. Whole, not by a doctor or medicine. Not by a religion or a church. Not by a doctrine or creed. An experience. This is why I believe. It’s my anchor in my darkest hours and my deepest times of discouragement. An undeniable and unexplainable miracle and its why I never stop praying or believing in God.
Make Room for Suddenly
The book of Acts covers from the ascension of Jesus to the death of Simon Peter and Paul. During the Acts timeline, Paul writes 13 books, 14 if you are of the belief that he is the writer of Hebrews. Simon Peter and James write another three, leaving just five books written after the Acts of the Apostles ends around 70 A.D. Nearly every epistle needs to be read through the prism of the book of Acts. The epistles are written during Acts to saints, people who have experienced the only Spiritual experience found in the 40 years that the book of Acts covers. I mention this because there is a word that catches my attention throughout the book. The word is suddenly, and depending on the version you read, it’s found over a dozen times. Luke wants us to know that much of what people witnessed in the book of Acts happened suddenly. It wasn’t planned, choreographed, or manipulated. The Spirit moved indiscriminately, at its own discretion, independent of any groups, agendas, or schedules. As we’ve started our sabbatical, we’re taking the opportunity to visit churches, something I’ve longed to do throughout my pastorate. I wanted to visit churches with different dynamics, see their systems, experience their services, and get a taste of their vision and passion. In some churches we’ve seen incredible vision, experienced great worship, and heard profound preaching and teaching, but left feeling like there was no room for the Spirit to have its liberty. Great experience, incredible talent, amazing messages, but no room for a “suddenly.” An hour to an hour and fifteen minutes and it was on to the next service or next week. In other venues we’ve left feeling like we were being hyped, manipulated, almost as if they didn’t need a “suddenly,” they could create a move of God on their own. Sing a song fast enough, repeat the chorus a dozen times, have a few timely key changes, and boom! A move of God. We left those services feeling like this was their Sunday routine. A lot of show, but not much substance nor dynamic growth happening in their lives. Different in style, but still no room for an authentic “suddenly.” In nearly every venue we’ve felt sincerity, God’s love, and a desire by each church for people to see Jesus and experience His presence. After some of our recent experiences, I returned to Acts to see when “suddenlys” happened. What I’ve found is that “suddenlys” happened in times of where prayer was the focus, “suddenlys” happened without scripts and programs. “Suddenlys” came without hype or manipulation and happened when people took time to seek God, were praying for His will, and were more concerned about God approval than what a crowd might think. As we’ve visited different church communities, we’ve heard this hunger communicated by others, “we just want to find a place where God’s presence can be experienced freely yet authentically.” Today, more than ever I’m sensing we need less polished, programmed, and planned church. We need less hyped-up, manipulated, and self-created services, and more desperate desire for a “suddenly.” We need more of what John 3:8 says, “like the wind blows. . . so does the Spirit.” Structure is invaluable, being relevant is critical, and doing things decently and in order should be properly balanced, but at the end of the day we need more divine intervention and more indescribable but undeniable. I pray that pastors, churches and more importantly, in each of our personal lives, we begin to desire more “suddenly there came a sound from heaven.”
The Strength of Slowing Down
Reduce Speed. Speed Zone Ahead. Speed Limit 20 m.p.h. We’ve all seen these signs that warn us that our speed must change soon. You’re flying along, making great time, but suddenly the pace slows to what feels like a crawl. The signs seem to come at the most inopportune time, invariably showing up when you’re late or in a hurry. Here in Indiana, drive on a state highway or county road and eventually you are going to drive into a one stop light or no stop light town. You’ve been cruising along at 65 or 70 and suddenly you’re running 20. Often it feels pointless. Most of the small towns have little or no traffic, not much commerce, and rarely do you even see a person stirring. More than once I’ve seen Barney Fife, the one local police officer, setting with his radar gun pinging drivers or have an out of towner pulled over. I often tried to understand why the need for such a slow pace. Maybe it’s a way to bring some income to the town. Maybe town residents complained about the excessive speed, maybe a local business or restaurant hopes it gets notice by the slower speed, or maybe I am driving through their town in the slowest part of the day. We’ve all driven on an interstate and ran into the Construction Zone Ahead Signs warning of hundreds, and sometimes thousands of dollars in fines for speeding. How many of those areas have you driven through not to see a piece of equipment moving or any human movement? Still, you drive with the fear that you will be the one that gets the fine, and your next vacation or big screen tv is gone to pay for a ticket. There is a point for these signs though. They are there for someone’s safety. There may be elderly people who do business or small kids that play in the small towns, so to protect them, everyone slows down. Obviously, construction zones can be dangerous areas. Workers risk their lives to make ours more convenient, so by slowing down they are safer and eventually our lives are better. Winter is the slow down sign for those who live where the weather turns cold and snowy. It almost feels like it’s God’s sign for humanity to slow down. It gets dark early, the cold nearly eliminates outdoor activities, and if we get enough, snow can make life come to a halt. It seems it’s then and only then, that we throw on some flannels, put a fire in the fireplace, grab a blanket, and grab a good book or watch a movie. Our lives run too hot. Text messages are expected to be responded to within minutes, emails answered the same day, and there seems to always be a pressing meeting that can’t be missed. What is missed when we fail to slow down? A spouse that needs you to put down your phone and give them some attention like you gave them when you were dating. A child who wants you to hear about their struggle with someone in their class or for you to be totally engaged as they show you their school project. A person hurting or discouraged that just needs a listening ear, not for you to solve their issue your way and zoom out of their life. Should I go on? There are so many reasons to slow down, but we don’t, we run through the signs and on to the next “important” event. May I encourage you to look and listen for life signs that are saying, slow down. They may help someone else, but you might find that if you heed the warning sign that your life becomes more peaceful. Isaiah said in Isaiah 40:31, “those who wait (slow down) for the Lord Will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. Embrace the strength in slowing down.
There’s More to It
Fasting. It’s become trendy. Social influencers and entertainers are embracing intermittent fasting as the latest weight loss craze. Twenty-one-day fasting is the rage in churches across America as a new year starts. While I appreciate the return to the focus on fasting, for many it has become more about being trendy than humbling ourselves or being changed. Community fast are biblical, the nation of Israel went on fast several times a year. These fast were solemn moments when individuals and nations pulled away from everyday life, humbled themselves, and surrendered their hearts before the Lord. Beyond community fast, the bible gives many accounts of people who fasted. Most of these fast were done in private and were the way people acknowledged their need for God and sought Godly direction. They didn’t have a plan for God but a humble awareness that said they desperately needed God to direct their situation. Jesus said, that when we fast, not if, that it should be done for Him, not to impress people or to appear religious. I’m afraid that much of the fasting done today has lost its focus. Too often fasting is done frivolously, the checking off a yearly box, and then moving on, life as usual. Biblically, the focus of a fast wasn’t supposed to be on food, or even the sacrifice. A fast was humbly acknowledging our need for God and asking Him to direct our paths. At some point, I began to understand that instead of focusing on one big fast at the beginning of my year, I needed to fast repeatedly. If you aren’t aware, we are constantly battling our flesh, and it must be humbled and submitted to God and His Word regularly. I came to understand that life has seasons, that we have moments when carnality creeps into the best of us, and for that reason, I needed to fast more frequently. For 25 years I began my year with a seven day fast of water only. I pulled away from pleasure, tuned into my bible with extra diligence, and spent extra time in prayer. It was always amazing how I came out of the fast; I felt clean, pure, and could see with different vision. Early on, I began to realize that I felt wonderful for a while, but it seemed that within a few months I was back to old thoughts and habits. It was then that I began to understand I needed more than a single seven day fast in my year. I decided to fast more frequently. I began to take a day in my week to fast and humble my flesh. A couple more times a year I would go on another three or seven day fast. It was a game changer. My spiritual life began to have consistency, the Word become more dynamic, and my times in prayer became more vibrant. For those who are fasting, congratulations! I encourage you to make it more than the trendy moment that happens every January, make it a regular discipline in your life. Pull away frequently from food or a vice, spend additional time in your Bible, and pray with the intention of knowing God. Your life will be forever changed. You will see and hear God in ways beyond your wildest imagination and experience His power in miraculous ways.
Embrace Your Moment
Not every season unfolds the way we might want it to. If we could choreograph our life there would be little pain, struggle, or difficulties. If we plotted our own lives, we would make sure that it was void of loneliness, fear, and failure. After 35 years in ministry, 15 in higher education and 20 as a pastor, I’m in transition, a new chapter of life. Gone are the deadlines, daily duties, and weekly messages. The new season is requiring that I learn how to rest and relax, take care of a grandson, and spend time exploring what my future might look like. To be honest, I’m not enjoying it. The rest and relaxation feels lazy and exploring the future is like looking for a needle in a haystack. As of now, I’ve decided to embrace my time with my grandson, Carter. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do realize that he has a lot more time in the future than I do. So, while it may not seem like the greatest challenge, I’m embracing my time with him with passion. While I might prefer to be writing sermons, it could be more important that I’m reading stories with inflection, sound effects, and silliness to a little boy. Truthfully, I’d rather be preparing for a new study series, but instead I find myself setting at a keyboard teaching Carter to play Mary had a Little Lamb and let him bang keys at every octave. I could go on, but you get the point. Why am I embracing the season with vigor? Two reasons. First, it’s what God has put in front of me, and I’ve always lived with the principle that whatever God gives me to do, I’ll do it with passion and excellence. Second, I embrace the moment because God knows better than I. Investing in Carter may be more important than I realize, I may be developing the next great author, speaker, or musician. Too many miss great opportunities because they view them as too small, but God said, “he who is faithful with the small things will be faithful with much.” It is important we realize that our lives are filled with ebb and flow, not every moment will be in the spotlight, nor will every moment be in the dark, it takes both to have a full life. Moses’ experienced three seasons in his life. The first was exciting and full of possibility, the last was filled with incredible successes. Moses’ most important moment was the middle season, the one that felt like failure, futility, and was filled with loneliness. It was there, in the desert, where Moses learned how to navigate the land, survive the wilderness, and manage people. Though he likely detested the season, he embraced it, and experienced a burning bush and received his ultimate calling. Difficult seasons often feel pointless and wasteful, and walking through them, we don’t view them as critically important to our lives. What are you walking through? While it may be overwhelming, painful, or confusing, it may be the very season that jettisons you into an inconceivable opportunity. Embrace the moment!
My Friend Rob Cutter
Green Valley. It’s a neighborhood in Noblesville where I grew up. You might describe our little community as the “Mayberry” of neighborhoods. Everyone knew one another, kids could stay out all day without parents worrying about their safety, and summers were filled with lots of free time. When I was around eight, a new family moved in across the street, and I quickly built a friendship with Rob. We both love ball, it didn’t matter if it was a football, basketball, or baseball. If it was football, most often I was the receiver, and he was the quarterback. The Green Bay Packers were the team, I was Carrol Dale, he was Bart Starr, and whether it was two on two or three on three, we were unstoppable. Our real love though was basketball. God only knows how many hours we spent playing one on one, horse, limme, or around the world on the asphalt drive at his house. The competition was fierce, almost as if we were competing for championships, and I must admit, though he was a year younger, he won more games than he lost, regardless of what we were playing. If we played against others there was always one rule, “Hudson and Cutter couldn’t be on the same team.” Together we were unstoppable. Breaks from the court would mean Mrs. Cutters chocolate chips cookies, milk, and maybe an episode of Gilligan’s Island, but those breaks would be short and soon we would be back on the court. Though we were neighbors, occasionally we would have sleepovers. It was on one of those occasions that Rob showed me his dad’s office. It was filled with basketball plaques and trophies, and he would tell me that back in the day his dad was a really good basketball player. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I fully understood who Rollin Cutter was. The trophies and plaques were from his high school championship at Milan Hight School. To be specific, the 1954 Milan basketball team that inspired the movie “Hoosiers.” I now realize I wasn’t just playing against Rob, but the genes of his dad. As we grew older Rob became more dominant and slowly our time on the court began to disappear. By 1982, when I graduated and he was a sophomore, most of his evenings were spent at practice, whether it was football or basketball. His dominance wasn’t something I alone experienced, but now, others were as well. He became the starting quarterback for the Noblesville High School football team and starting center for the basketball team. He was so dominant that he was being recruited by colleges for both sports. He eventually chose football, going to Butler University, where he was their starting quarterback. Reflecting on my childhood days, I remember how frustrated I would be that my best friend, who was younger than I was, was always beating me. I often felt as though I was a failure, that I wasn’t gifted, and as much as I practiced, I just couldn’t beat him. As I have grown older, I’ve come to appreciate my losses on the court to Rob. Why? Because while I was losing, I was winning. As he has for so many, Rob made me better than I could have ever been on my own. His challenging play caused me to find myself on the winning side instead of losing when playing other competition. Beyond his talent is his impeccable character. He is one of the most unassuming individuals I have ever met, one of the kindest persons you will ever meet, and his successes in life far surpass what he ever did on a football field or basketball court. Rob, thanks for your friendship and congratulations on being inducted into Noblesville High School’s Hall of Fame. Your life has been a demonstration of how to live a life of integrity and you are worthy of the honor.
2023. Go Exploring!
Day one of 2023. A new beginning of sorts. A clean slate. A fresh piece of paper. The start of a new chapter. For some reason as this year opened, I reflected on one of the books by my favorite author, Bill Watterson. The books title is It’s a Magical World and it is a collection of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes comics. On the cover there is a fresh blanket of snow and Calvin and Hobbes have a large toboggan and big smiles on their faces. They are out to seize the day, enjoy the snow, and make new memories. Their expressions show no worry about issues of the day, only the pure excitement about what they are about to experience. For whatever reason my spirit resonated with the cover and how to approach 2023. While we could focus on the ills of society, dwell on the ugly in our world, or the problems in our marriage or family, today is an opportunity to change our focus. I think why I enjoy Calvin and Hobbes comic strips so much is because they make each day a new adventure. Rarely is he overwhelmed by the events of the day, instead he charges into each new day with childlike excitement. His imagination is filled with possibilities and his plans for the day are not dictated by the circumstances of his world. He is going to explore, create, and enjoy the day. Calvin is not the first to have this idea, in the Bible David said, this is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24). David suggests that it’s important how we frame each day. We can meander into a day with fear and anxiety, or march into it with zeal and excitement. Calvin and David both suggest the latter and so do I. 2023 is our next chapter to write. Depending on your age, you may have many chapters still to write, or for some, there may just be a few remaining. Regardless, it is a new chapter. The good news we get to choose what goes on the page and how we approach each day will determine the chapters content. Live today filled with expectation, faith, and zeal. Look for possibility. Create energy, laughter, and fun. Daily use the 126 variations of Crayola colors, not a pencil. Tough days will come but let them be a page in the chapter, not the storyline. The first page of It’s a Magical World has Calvin and Hobbes sitting on the toboggan at the top of a hill, Calvin looks at Hobbes and says, “it’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy. . . let’s go exploring! May 2023 be filled with faith, possibility, laughter, and all the excitement that God has planned for you. Go exploring!
Common and Kind to the Common
The first to see Him were not the blue bloods, the political elite, or those connected to the right social circles. In fact, the Wisemen, those who brought the wealth; gold, frankincense, and myrrh, didn’t arrive until Jesus was nearly a year old. The first to get an audience with God in flesh were shepherds, common men who took care of sheep. Jesus wasn’t born with a silver spoon in His mouth. He didn’t come from a family of movers and shakers or an aristocratic background, just a simple family from Nazareth. The Nazareth, that when Philip told Nathaniel that they had found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, said, “can anything good come out of Nazareth.” Nathaniel’s statement doesn’t leave you feeling like Jesus came from the right side of town. You would more likely find Jesus at a greasy spoon than any upscale restaurant in your local fashion district. One of the complaints the religious elite often had against Jesus was that he ate with publicans and sinners, common people. Jesus’ choice of leaders? Common Joe’s, fishermen and tax collectors. It seems it was almost a chore to dine with the who’s who. It’s as though He knew their agenda, not to build authentic relationship, but to broker deals and have influence. Jesus often seemed to be repulsed by their haughtiness, arrogance, and pride, maybe that’s why he gave so much time to the average person. He spent time with a broken woman at a well in the heat of the day, stopped for an old woman with incurable sickness, and more than once had to provide food to crowds who were either too poor, or didn’t have enough sense to bring food for a long day. His disciples tried to stop kids from getting to Him, but unlike them, Jesus didn’t see children as annoyances, but treasures. Though they were small and seemed insignificant, Jesus regularly paused and took time for them. In Philippians 2 Paul said, “that He made of himself no reputation,” and described Him as a servant, humble and common. Paul lets us know that Jesus would have likely spent little time creating his image, being a social media influencer, or rubbing shoulders with the clicks or “the in the crowd,” He was simply common. He was incredibly popular, but it never changed who He was. He kept His balance by praying often and never forgetting His purpose, to save the lost, broken, and hurting. It’s Jesus who we should pattern our lives after, not the latest concept or trendy pastor, just Jesus. While we’ve fell far short, this has been Mary and I’s goal from the outset of our ministry. At the college I worked at, everyone was always welcomed into my office, it wasn’t a place for the “big I’s and little you’s,” but a place everyone knew they could come for a listening ear. At lunch you would often find Mary and I sitting at the table with the students rather than with the staff, it just felt like the right place to be. As pastors at Life, we made sure that we took time for everyone. We consistently had lunch with “regular families.” We intentionally spent a lot of time with widows, students, and people who were hurting. They were our kind of people. We struggled and even avoided those who wanted to gossip, be in the know, or tried to influence us with their money or social standing. It felt so empty. Now, after 30 years of ministry, one of the greatest blessings is connecting with students or church members from years gone by and hearing them say, “you guys were so different,” we’ve never met ministers like you all,” or “you all are just so common.” We blush, smile, and say, thank you. It wasn’t an agenda, or learned concept, we were, and still are, just trying to be like Jesus. Common and kind to the common.
Tell Your World
I’m getting older and my musical taste is headed that direction too. I admit it, I like Rascal Flatts, especially at Christmas. When Mary and I are ready to put up the Christmas tree nothing sets the mood better than Rascal’s version of Go Tell it on the Mountain. Crank up their version of Joy to the World in our home and you’ve got instant Christmas spirit. If I’ve got to have something a little more traditional, give me their rendition of Hark, the Herald Angel Sing and I’m at Bethlehem. What cranks your gears? Who is your Christmas artist of choice? Maybe for you it’s a little Mariah Carey and Jesus, What a Wonderful Child or Carrie Underwood singing All is Well. Whatever your flavor, it’s time to bring out the Christmas music, the one’s that magnify Jesus’, and celebrate the birth of the Savior. This season is not about Santa and reindeer, gifts and greed, but God who came in a baby’s body to save a broken world. If there is ever a time this world needs to know His story, it’s now. Our culture is confused, families are fractured, and our country is as divided as ever. There seems to be no solution, but for those who know Jesus and His story, even in the darkest of hours, there is hope. Why sing Go Tell it on the Mountain? Because people need to know the story of our Savior. Why blare Joy to the World? Because you live in a world filled with despair and people need to hear that there is real joy in Jesus. So, dial in your Spotify Christmas list, play it loud, and play it often. Go tell it on the mountain, or at least in your world.
It Was the Biscuits!
I’m not sure if I have a finicky palate or a limited palate, whatever it is, I’m extremely happy when my meal involves pizza or hamburgers. That said, Mary has broadened my palate substantially over the past 30 years. She’s gotten me to eat all kinds of vegetables, casseroles, and countless other dishes. I’ve often told her that her kitchen is my favorite restaurant, not because it saves me money, but because the way she prepares dishes is better than about any restaurant I’ve ever eaten at. To me, her ability to prepare about any dish with just the right seasonings is second to none. As we move into the Christmas season, people are anticipating her sugar cookies, and I guarantee you that there is no way you can eat “just one.” With all the bragging about her cooking, I must say she has had a struggle with one of my favorite breakfast dishes, wait for it . . . biscuits and gravy. For years she tried to get it down, but hers often turned out too salty, peppery, bland, but most often, too sweet. When I worked at Indiana Bible College, I would brag about the late Pat Liford’s biscuits and gravy. They were so good that I got her to set the weekly biscuit and gravy meal around my class schedule. This made the whole biscuits and gravy thing worse for Mary, to say she is competitive is an understatement, and this became a battle she was determined to win. She eventually went to Pat, asked for her recipe and the rest is history, sort of. I remember the first time she made Pat’s recipe; I tasted it while it was simmering in the pan and I remember saying, “that’s it, you’ve got it figured out.” I was so excited to sit down and enjoy Mary’s biscuits and gravy. I cracked open a couple of biscuits, layered a heavy covering of gravy, and dug in. To my surprise something had happened between the pan and the plate, the gravy had a sweet flavor, something that I, as an official connoisseur of biscuits and gravy, totally disliked. It was then we discovered the problem, not just for the moment, but probably for years. Mary’s struggle with biscuits and gravy wasn’t her gravy, it was the biscuits! She had been buying a sweet biscuit, while nearly everyone else used a southern or buttermilk biscuit. The gravy she had made may have been fine, but the biscuit was changing the taste. Like our biscuit and gravy problem, I wonder how many are struggling trying to fix problems, not realizing they are focused on the wrong issue. We try to fix ourselves when we need God’s help. We stay in frustrating relationships blaming ourselves when it is often others creating the problem. We get into difficult situations, trying to make them work, when it really isn’t supposed to be a part of our life. What are you dealing with? What has been a struggle for a long time? Maybe it’s not the gravy, but the biscuit.
My Home Town. Noblesville at Christmas
A holiday postcard. A Norman Rockwell Christmas painting. The Christmas song, “Silver Bells.” All will give you the essence of the town Mary and I get to call home. It’s Noblesville during the Christmas season. The light posts all have snowflakes, bells, and ornaments attached that light up in the evening. Santa’s house sets on the town square reminding you that Christmas will soon arrive. Drive through in the evening and the county courthouse is lit in red and green. On any given Saturday you may see an elf on the square, and you will definitely see families lined up to visit Santa in his cozy little workshop. If you come early, stop in at the Uptown Café, Rosie’s, or Erika’s for a homemade breakfast. If you aren’t able to catch breakfast, at least stop into Noble Tea and Coffee, and grab a mocha or coffee before hitting the quaint shops. Each shop has its own unique décor, and all make you feel as you just stepped into Christmas. There is the Logan Street Mall with nearly 50 local vendors and the Old Picket Fence Shop filled with antiques. If your taste is for something more of the retro style or Magnolia, step into Vintage Adventure or Persimmon’s Avenue and you’re sure to find something you can’t leave without. If you plan for a December weekend visit, you will want to take the kids on the Reindeer Express train ride. Still need more? Grab dinner at one of the many restaurants, I have an affinity for Grindstone Pub or a good Italian dish at Matteo’s. Finally plan on finishing off the evening with a horse driven carriage ride through downtown, a walk through the Christmas Light village, or some ice skating at Federal Hill Park. I may have a bit of a bias and be a little nostalgic but add a big snowstorm and you have the perfect opportunity to see a Norman Rockwell scene in person, and the place Mary and I get to call home.
My Battle with the Wind
Over the past month I have been in battle with leaves. Though the number is somewhere in the tens of thousands, it seems as though I’ve blown and raked a million of them. Every time I think I’ve won the battle a wind blows, and more leaves. They come from trees, neighbors’ yards, the golf course, wherever. My frustration is multi-faceted. One problem is that trees don’t release their leaves at the same time, instead, it is a process that starts in mid-October and finishes at the end of November, at least I hope it’s finished. Another problem is that some people care about leaves, blow and rake them, and others don’t. You can see the issue here. The leaves of people who don’t care end up in the yards of those who do. I will forgo chasing this rabbit, but needless to say, I wish everyone cared about leaves. What I’ve come to realize is this, the real issue is not leaves, but wind. If the wind didn’t blow, the leaves would fall, be blown and raked, and that would be the end of it. But the wind turns it into a never-ending battle. Soon the issue will change, instead of leaves, it will be snow. Snow, in itself, is beautiful, changing drab gray days and landscapes void of color, into winter wonderlands. But wind changes the game. Depending on the amount of snow and the strength of the wind, you can have drifts that are three and four times the height of the amount of snow. A 12” snow with wind can easily produce three-foot drifts. Gentry and I experienced the power of wind a couple of weeks ago at Pikes Peak. As we neared the top, we were stopped by a ranger that said we couldn’t go any further up the mountain. What was the issue? Snow? Yes and no. Though the road was clear where we were, and there was only eight or nine inches of snow on the ground, the winds ahead were 75 mph with gust of 100 mph. The peak had become undriveable, The winds were so strong that the small amount of snow had closed the road. My point here is simple. Sometimes, the issue is not the issue, that what we are dealing with is not a person or issue, but a spirit. The battle is often like the ones we fight with leaves and snow, we’re not really fighting snow and leaves, but wind. Paul told the church in Ephesus, you are not wrestling against flesh and blood, but powers, darkness, and wickedness in the heavens. Paul is warning us that there is spiritual warfare above us. How do we deal with this war, with issues beyond our control? Do two things. Pray and wait. Isaiah 40:31 says, “they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.” What are you going through? Who are you battling? The person, the issue, is not really your problem. Your battle is with a wind that is trying to overwhelm, discourage and defeat you.
The Value of Sleeping in an Airport
My son Gentry has a zeal for life like no one I’ve ever met. He’s 26 and loves to travel the world. He’s been to countless National Parks, Ireland, and Iceland, yet ask him today what one of the highlights of 2022 is, and he would tell you a day trip with his dad. Unfortunately, the past year has been filled with much upheaval and one of the tragic results was me saying, “no” to countless trips that Gentry wanted to take with me. Finally, with our pastoral transition behind me, a little extra cash, and some spare time, I was able to say yes to a trip. First, I should say I am thankful that Gentry continued to ask me to go on trips; that he didn’t give up on me. He had every right to become bitter and resentful. What it spoke to me was, that more than any gift I could give him, he wanted to have time, make memories, and experience life with his dad. Again, a blessing I will forever be thankful for. As for the trip, it was short, just one day. It started early, 4 a.m. We were on a plane to Detroit by 6 a.m. and by 10:30 a.m. we were standing in Denver. He had rented a car, planned the day, and taken care of every imaginable detail. The day was amazing. It wouldn’t be a Gentry trip if it didn’t mean getting lost, we managed to do that within the first hour, trying to find a Dunkin Donuts. Somehow, we ended up in the middle of an office complex parking lot. Once we got our coffee, we were off to the Garden of the God’s, a state park just south of Denver. We walked, hiked, and climbed for a few hours, though both of us eventually admitted it was a little less than overwhelming, and that there were so many people on the rocks that we felt like ants at a picnic. From there things got much better. A much bigger venue, and a lot less people. Pikes Peak. We enjoyed every twist and turn, the scenic views, and ever-increasing snow. We ventured up the mountain to a little over 13,000 feet when we rounded a corner to see a park ranger. The news was not what we wanted to hear. Winds were blowing at 75 mph, with gust over 100 mph. Our journey had ended. We through some snowballs, got some pictures, and headed back down the mountain. The day was long from over though, from there he had planned our next expedition, downtown Denver. We saw Mile High Stadium, Coors Field where the Rockies play, and some local shops, before finding a restaurant and settling down for dinner. The day was over, so I thought, but Gentry had one more adventure for me to experience. Flights were tight, but he managed to get a us a flight to Houston, one caveat, we would have to sleep in the airport, something that he had done many times, but would be my first experience. I survived. I woke up understanding that there are some strange people in airports after midnight, sore, and very tired. By noon on Sunday, we were back in Noblesville setting at Chili’s, reliving the journey, and already embellishing the trip. Some simple observation. No matter how old they are, and no matter how busy you may be, take time for those who matter most. Make more memories than money. Give your kids, regardless of their age, the best you have . . . yourself.
The Bridges of Parke County
Parke County, It’s a fall tradition for Mary and me. We take a day, grab a cup of coffee at Urban Grounds in Rockville, hit a few shops in town, and then we’re off to the main attraction, to see the bridges. To be exact, thirty-one covered bridges. Some you have to walk; some you get to hear the clonking of wood planks as your car crosses the bridge. Nothing like taking a few hours to step into the past and enjoy a time that was much simpler and slower. There’s one requirement to experience the bridges of Parke County, you must leave the main roads, even the secondary roads, and drive on country, one lane, and gravel roads. The bridges of Parke County make you step away from the crowds, slow down, and enjoy nature and the beautiful colors of fall. I think that’s what Mary and I like best. Most of the bridges are on gravel roads, nestled in forest, farmland, and places that only those who are intentionally looking, will find them. The bridges of Parke County aren’t just about the bridges for us, it’s more about enjoying the atmosphere, nostalgia, and the dream of a simpler life. Driving on a gravel road slows your pace to about 10 mph, gives you time to reflect on the past, and have conversations you’ve need to have, but haven’t, because life just gets too busy. In my humble opinion a lot of us could use a drive to Parke County and the thirty-one covered bridges. You would enjoy the bridges, but the purpose of your trip wouldn’t be about them, but about getting off the interstate of life and letting your mind spend some time on a peaceful gravel road. It’s on the gravel road where you will get a sense of what’s important again, reconnect with your spouse, and see that there’s more significant issues than what’s happening on social media or getting to the next movie or game. The color of fall may be gone, and snow is on the way, but I still would invite you to put a trip down a gravel road on your calendar, or at least in the back of your mind.
Thomas L. Craft: Rest in Peace
Hero of the faith. Humble Servant of God. Visionary Leader. An Investor in Young Men. A Passion for Lost Souls. The list could go on and on. No one stands alone but on the shoulders of others, and I stand on the impact of T.L. Craft. He is why I was allowed to spend 15 years at Indiana Bible College and 20 years as Pastor of Life Connections. He believed in me, gave me a chance, and invested in me, as he has done for so many. I loved the days when I was in the office, and he would call and tell me to meet him at the golf course. This is where he poured so much wisdom into me as a young man. I don’t know if it was his way of emptying out the stress of pastoring or that he sensed that God had a specific plan for my life that prompted the calls. Regardless, I’m grateful for those days that we chased the little white ball together, but more thankful that I listened to his wisdom and insight on those hot Mississippi days. As an emerging minister, having an elder that poured into my life made such a difference in my life and eventually impacted how I would pastor. He once told me, “Jon, you can sheer a sheep a 100 times but you can only skin them once.” I never forgot that piece of advice. It saved me many times from making “in the moment mistakes,” and potential repercussions of acting in frustration. Prayer was always a priority at his church, something that left an indelible mark on me, and I will never forget experiencing the most sovereign move of God I have ever seen in one of his Sunday services. I have talked about that service my entire ministry and longed to experience something similar to it again my whole life. So saddened by his passing but thankful for getting to be a part of his incredible life. Rest in peace Pastor and enjoy the place you preached about so often.
The Trouble with Sand
Sand. I have a love hate relationship with it. I say this because the beautiful sandy shores of Orange Beach was my home last week. As I set on the beach enjoying the gentle breeze, watching waves, enjoying family, and reading books, I also had to deal with sand. I must admit that I enjoyed playing games, drawing sketches, and taking walks with Mary in the sand, but there was another side of sand I didn’t enjoy. It was everywhere I didn’t want it to be, in my lunch, stuck to my skin, and eventually into nearly everything we owned. I got home and found sand in my luggage, our car, and clothes. What I’ve determined is sandy venues are nice places to visit, but not a place I necessarily want to live. In Orange Beach, like so many other beaches, it appears that homes are built on the beaches but look closely and you will see that nothing is built on sand. The homes are built on wood foundations that go deep below to soil. Luxurious condominiums that rise into the sky are set on foundations that go as deep as they are high. There is a parable where Jesus talks of how we should build. In the parable Jesus speaks of two builders who built homes. One built on sand and the other solid ground. Jesus says that after the homes were built, storms came, and the home that was built on sand collapsed, while the one built on strong ground, stood. Notice, the problem wasn’t the material, the problem was the foundation. This parable causes me to ask, what are we building our lives and culture on? Things, people, and ideas that shift, change, and move like sand, or on principles and values that have stood the test of storms, time, and difficulty? There is a current of religious culture that feels very sandy. It says have the right look, connect to the right people, have trendy social media, and you will draw a crowd and that makes a successful church community. Don’t rock the boat or make people feel uncomfortable. While it looks good, it’s sandy. No conviction. No call to altars or repentance, and definitely, no allowance for the Spirit to have any freedom in a service. Shudder to think that they might allow signs, wonders, or miracles to work, it might alarm the sinner. Keep the environment controlled and comfortable. It’s sand. What will stand the test of storms and time? Pretty simple. Anything built on the power and Word of God and anywhere there is passionate prayer, and the Spirit is allowed to have liberty.
Omaha: The Audible
Payton Manning. He doesn’t have as many Super Bowl rings as some. He didn’t have a canon for an arm, and he may not have looked like some kind of physical specimen, but he will go down as one of the greatest to ever play the position of quarterback. What he lacked in strength, he made up for in preparation and study. No one knew their playbook or the opposing defense better. He would spend hours on end studying, not only his playbook, but watching film of opposing teams’ defense. He knew the subtleties of opposing players. He could tell if a blitz was coming by which hand a player put on the ground. He knew how teams would disguise their coverage to the point, that he often told opposing teams’ players that they were out of position before snapping the ball. When a game started, he had scripted his first 25 plays, knowing the opposing team’s tendencies. His intellect of the game was and still is, incomparable. But probably his greatest ability was to call an audible. Regardless of what he had scripted, how much he had prepared, if he noticed a nuance in a defense, he would instantly change the play. It didn’t matter how much he had practiced or scripted, if he saw a weakness in a defense, he audibled. His code word was “Omaha.” If his teammates heard it, they knew Payton was changing the play, if the opposing team heard it they knew they had been exposed. At the word Omaha, defenses would panic and scramble to try to make a change in their scheme. Payton’s ability to go off script allowed him to destroy defenses, and sometimes it seemed, he could score at will. We as Christians, in church services, in our daily walk, we need to know when to call an audible. We need to know when the Spirit is leading us toward a defining moment. As they would each day, Simon Peter and John were on their way to prayer, but this day would be different. As they were walking, they heard the Spirit say, today I want you to stop at the beggar’s station, speak a word, and pick up the beggar. By obeying, by audibling, a miracle took place and an explosion of growth moved through the church. Plan your day, plan a service, but once we’ve got it all together always be ready for a “Omaha” moment. It’s often when we go off script that we see the miraculous and experience the supernatural!
Flannel and Fall
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.
A Legacy of Faith
January 12, 2012. It’s the 12-5 Pittsburgh Steelers against the 8-8 Denver Broncos in the playoffs. It had been a back-and-forth game, and as fate would have it, the game would go to overtime. The overtime last just one play. Tim Tebow would find Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard touchdown, and in an instant, the game was over. The Denver players celebrated, fans went delirious, and Tim Tebow raised his hands in jubilation, but almost instantly, viewers watched as he quickly bowed his knee. No one should have been shocked, it wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be his last. He was known for kneeling. It happened in college games, it happened at public events, and I’m sure it happened in his private life. At any time and in any place, when there was a moment to give thanks or honor, Tebow would kneel. In a very simple way, Tebow’s actions somewhat mimicked the actions of the patriarch, Abraham. Abraham was a man of altars. In his youth, Abraham understood his need for God’s guidance, so he built an altar at Shekem. As he grasped his dependence on God, he built a second altar, this one at Bethel. In Hebron, he builds a third altar, this time realizing God was his friend, that God was not against him, but for him. He builds his final altar at Moriah, showing God his total commitment to Him. While we often reflect on Abraham’s faith, it was his altars that was a demonstration of his faith. Throughout his life Abraham bowed, he acknowledged God and his dependence on Him. Not only did Abraham build and live at altars, but he also instilled the value of an altar in his son. As they head up Mount Moriah, look at Isaac’s question. Isaac asks, “dad, we’ve got the wood and we’ve got the fire, but where is the sacrifice?” If there is no example, if there is no training, there would have been no question. How about you? Do you still build altars? Are you training your family to live near an altar? Are you giving them a legacy of appreciation?” An altar, not a one stop moment, but a continual, life enhancing value that must be visited often. If we do, it will sustain us through every phase and challenge of our life.
Simply Blessed Beyond Belief
As Mary and I close out the chapter as Pastors at Life Connections and enter into the next phase in our lives I felt it necessary for those we call friends to hear my heart and voice. Here are my thoughts as close a beautiful chapter and enter an exciting next phase of our lives. As you read, I simply want you to see the blessing of God that has been on our lives and invite you to take inventory of yours and see how blessed you are. Sometimes seeing blessings is just a matter of perspective.
1. Blessed to have Godly parents. Mom and dad, Milford and Alice Hudson, set the foundation that everything my life is built on. Julie Hudson Robinson, my amazing sister, and I owe everything we are to them.
2. Blessed to grow up and now live in Noblesville, Indiana. If you’ve ever wanted to live or go to Mayberry, you’ve got to come to Noblesville. It’s where I learned the value of common sense and how to live just being myself.
3. Blessed to set under amazing pastors. Pastor Nathaniel Urshan taught me how to minister with balance, pastor James Larson taught me to pray and then pray some more, pastor T.L. Craft taught me endurance, and pastor Paul Mooney taught me how to laugh and be creative.
4. Blessed to go to Jackson College of Ministries where I was impacted by Darrell Johns and Ron Cooper. It’s here I met my lifelong and best friend Robert Tisdale.
5. Blessed when Mary Odum Hudson kicked her shoes off in the Indy Hyatt and introduced herself to me. It would be the beginning of the greatest privilege in my life, to be her husband. To share life and more incredibly good times and laughter than a person could imagine is my greatest honor.
6. Blessed to have two amazing children, Gentry Hudson and Risa Hudson Fontaine and now a son in law Jake, and a grandchild, Carter. Gentry and Risa are not gold, they are the highest class diamonds, they have such incredible depth as Christians and are two of the finest people I know. Keep the truth and principles we have lived before you and taught you. Your future is bright!
7. Blessed to teach over 2000 students at Indiana Bible College. This will always be something we will point to as highlight of our ministry. To be trusted as a young couple to impact students in a powerful way, to see moves of God in their lives in my classes, and then watch as they grow into incredible ministers is one of my greatest treasures. You will always be family, not just students.
8. Blessed to start Life Connections, a Spirit filled and led church that didn’t have all the walls of religion and didn’t shun hurting people who loved God. We didn’t require all the religious entanglements, but we did teach the gospel, the power of prayer, and the value of being authentic. It has been an incredible journey. We’ve had over 2000 people pass through our doors in our 20 years. Life Connections was always a hospital. Many people came hurt, were healed, and then moved on to do greater things. To those who have stayed, I would say I got to pastor some of the most amazing people in the world, it is a privilege, not only to be your pastor, but be your friend. Thank you for sharing your lives with us.
9. Blessed to go through some incredibly difficult and dark times. We’ve faced personal attacks, attacks on our character and integrity, cancer, diabetes, sickness, and emotional darkness and stood strong and came through without bitterness by the grace of God. Without these challenges we would not have been able to minister to people with faith, grace, mercy, and unconditional love. As Paul said, we glory in our weakness and infirmities, they made us who we are.
10. Blessed to see Life Connections transition to Pastor’s Phil and Annie Daigle. We see an amazing and incredible future for you all. Stay on your knees in prayer, build altars, keep the faith and truth, and stay authentic, there is no ceiling on the future if you do. We’re blessed to call you all our pastors.
11. Finally. We are blessed as we step into the future. While we don’t know where it leads or what it looks like, because of the blessings you just read about over the last 30 years, we are certain that it will be blessed and favored. Our life and ministry has not been built on titles, positions, or positioning, but on being humble and willing servants and seeing the Kingdom advance regardless of the struggle, pain, and hurt. We know we have purpose and we know some of our greatest adventures lie ahead. We love you all and look forward to sharing the future together.