As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving it should be easy to reflect on God’s goodness and give thanks. Though our country is in a difficult season, we’re still fortunate to live with countless freedoms and blessings. While it may not be your dream home, you woke up in a bed and looked up to see a roof over your head. As a chill begins to fill the air, we kick on furnaces, add blankets to beds and grab coats before we leave our homes. Today, we might ask, what do you want to eat or how can I lose weight, but probably not, I wonder if there will be food for me today. If you’re reading this devotion, it means you have your sight and you’re holding it in your hand, either physically or on an electronic device. Much of the third world walks to destinations, while we jump into vehicles and travel in luxury. Consider the blessings we have if we have health, family, and friends. Beyond the material and relational blessings, there is more. King David, who lived a blessed life, reflected on God’s goodness in Psalm 136. He doesn’t mention material or relational favor, but reflects on one blessing, “that God’s mercy endures forever.” In fact, so overwhelmed by God’s mercy, he repeats the phrase, “his mercy endures forever,” 26 times. I too say, thanks God, for your mercy. Beyond the physical blessings, wonderful family, and good friends, I’m grateful for God’s overextending mercy. Mercy to robe himself in flesh and give His life for me, grace that extends beyond my continual shortcomings, and love that is unfailing and infinite. As we gather this Thanksgiving, remember to give thanks that you know a merciful, gracious, and loving God.
Wind, we can’t see it, but we can hear it when it blows through a grove of trees, and we can definitely see its aftereffects. This weekend, here in central Indiana, wind pretty much ended fall, stripping trees of their beautiful color. More powerful winds bring tornados that wreck havoc. Set along a southern coast, and you might experience the powerful impact of a hurricane that changes the landscape of life. In the summer there’s nothing like a gentle breeze to take the heat of the day away, yet when that same wind blows in the winter, it makes cold turn to frigid. Though no one has ever seen wind, everyone would acknowledge it exists. In John 3:8, Jesus is explaining the Spirit to Nicodemus and compares it to the wind. He says you can’t see it; you don’t know where it comes from, nor where it’s going, but there is no doubt when you have experienced it. In a world that wants everything explained and leaves very little room for the supernatural, Jesus is letting us know that if we are going to experience the power of the Spirit, we’re going to have make room for the unexplainable, yet undeniable. It’s not coincidental that Jesus uses wind to explain the Spirit. When a move of the Spirit blows into a life, family, or church it does exactly as wind. It can be a refreshing breeze. A wind that strips away the unnecessary junk clinging to our lives or tornadic power that changes the landscape of our lives. In Acts 2, the Spirit stripped away the guilt of failure and fear of religion. In Acts 3, Simon Peter describes the coming Spirit as “a time of refreshing,’ and in Acts 17, the town said of the disciples, “these are they who have turned the world upside down. Pray that God will let us experience His sovereign, unexplainable, yet undeniable wind of the Spirit.
Evidently God likes to celebrate. We don’t get too far into the Bible before God gives Moses his Law. While much attention is put on the negative elements of the Law, there was also some good aspects. That includes the Feast, or celebrations, that God called for each year. The major purpose of these Feast was to remember and give thanks to God for all He had done, and to bring people together. The Passover Feast was to remember and celebrate God bringing people out of bondage, and the Feast of Pentecost was to remind them to celebrate God’s holiness and power. But it’s the third Feast, the Feast of Booths, that I draw your attention to. This celebration took place in the fall and was a time of giving thanks for a good harvest, recognizing God as their provider, and celebrating the goodness of life. People basically camped out, ate good food, listened to music, and partied for seven days. It was open, not only to the people of Israel, but to all people who trusted in God. It was a festival where God wanted people to enjoy His blessings. I love that! Too often we lose focus on the goodness of God and great blessings of life. We allow social media and doomsday broadcasters to control our emotions and thoughts. We forget to look around at all the good, the good people God has put in our lives, and the blessings that we do enjoy. Today, our Chili Cook-Off is our Feast of Booths. It’s a moment to celebrate life, to celebrate the friendships we have, and to make new memories. It’s a time to reminisce, laugh and make new friends. So today, eat more chili than you should, trash talk more than you can live up to and make your circle bigger than normal. Celebrate life with your Life Community and remember, the best is yet to come!
A bomb cyclone, a somewhat new weather expression, which in simple terms means we’re about to get what the old-timers called, “a gully washer”. That’s what we’ve experienced in central Indiana over the past few weeks. It’s made for lush green grass, a late arriving fall, and some brilliant fall colors. There’s been so much rain though, that its overwhelmed creeks and low-lying areas, putting stress on areas prone to flooding. When heavy rains come my mind goes to the words of Simon Peter in Acts 2:17, “that in the last days that God would pour His Spirit out on all flesh.” I take heart in those words, that regardless of social reformations, political agendas and a woke culture, there will be a day that God will pour out a boundless flood of His Spirit. We’ve had glimpses of it in the past with powerful moves in New York City under Jeremiah Lampier in 1860, life impacting experiences in Topeka Kansas in 1900, and Azusa Street in California in what Time Magazine called one of the top 100 events to happen in the 20th Century. My feeling is that those events will pale in comparison to what God will soon bring to this world. In Elijah’s day prophets were being killed, famine was overwhelming the land and there had been no rain for three and a half years. Elijah went to his knees, kept looking for God’s promises and speaking faith. In time, a small cloud appears, and Elijah spoke words that I still hold on to today, “I hear the sound of an abundance of rain.” Be encouraged, as rough as it may look, God is still in control. There is a “spiritual bomb cyclone” coming, a good old gully washer that will clean out the sickness of sin and bring fresh hope to our hearts and families.
Fall, the season when leaves fall and flowers fade, but what many don’t realize, is that fall is also planting season. Over the past few weeks, I’ve planted a couple of trees, sown Kentucky Blue Grass, and hit the yard with a covering of Scott’s fertilizer with a good dose of 2-4-D. Why? Because fall is the best time to make sure you have a successful spring. Planting trees in the fall allows their roots to grow deep while the branches are dormant. Seeding has the same impact, grass grows stronger, and when you fertilize, you kill both seen and unseen weeds. By fertilizing we eliminate a lot of problems that would show up in the spring and summer. Why do I mention fall planting? Because I believe there is an important spiritual principle to be found. Why do our lives have dormant times? Why do we have seasons where God seems to disappear, or we feel abandoned? Because God knows we need developmental seasons. Dormant periods are times when God brings growth to our lives. Some look at fall, when the trees are losing their leaves, and say, the trees are dying, but we know better. The same principle works in our lives, some may look at a person and say they are dying, or you may feel as though God has forsaken you, but be confident, God is at work. It’s in dormant times that our faith grows deep. It’s in difficult stretches that we experience God in ways beyond our imagination. Moses has a Fall season. He kills an Egyptian, flees to the wilderness and his life appears to be dying. But it was in the wilderness that Moses learned to hear God’s voice, trust God, and navigate the land he would lead people through, all in a season that seemed to be counterproductive. Don’t be discouraged when your life feels inactive, God is developing you, preparing you for your next season. Embrace your fall!
The can said, “do not puncture,” but since my free-on hose was not penetrating the can, I thought I would use my ingenuity. The plan was to tap the top with a small nail, then with my cat like quickness, attach the hose, and fill my Toyota’s air conditioner. It sounded like a solid idea, but was I ever wrong. I was not nearly quick enough, nor had I anticipated what would come out of the can. My gentle tap set off Old Faithful. A geyser of air and oil shot out of the can and before I realized what had happened or could get the hose on the now slippery can, I had lost over half its contents. R-134 was everywhere. Thankfully, the lesson only cost me about $5. My experience with a can of R-134 is what sometimes happens when we play with sin. The Bible is filled with caution signs warning us about the power of sin, yet for some reason we disregard its warnings. In the moment sin seems like a good idea, we justify our actions, or think we can handle it, but in the end, to often it turns out like my can of R-134, a bigger mess than we could have ever imagined and costing more than we ever anticipated. David, the man after God’s own heart, was a perfect example of the power of sin. Victorious over a bear, lion and giant, able to deny the temptation to slay his adversary, David peering over his balcony, spots a bathing Bathsheba. His flesh says, you can handle this, you deserve it, while his heart was saying, “warning, danger, stay away.” He justifies he actions, pushes past the warnings, and within days his life is in disarray. The mess was larger than he imagined and cost him more than he anticipated. What warning signs are you ignoring? Stop now! Listen to God’s promptings, don’t mess with sin.
The hot dry days of August have transitioned to cool nights in September. The breezes of October are beginning to blow, so it is inevitable, fall. The leaves are starting to change. Green leaves are turning yellow, orange, red and brown and soon there will be a kaleidoscope of color here in central Indiana. We’re putting out the mums, buying hay bales, adding pumpkins, and pulling out the sweaters and boots. It’s fall. Isn’t it amazing how easily we sense the changing of the seasons? Crazier still, it’s amazing how we adapt. What about the changes that are taking place in our lives, are we as aware? Unlike the change from summer to fall, too many are oblivious to the deviations that are taking place in their lives. They fail to see themselves slipping away from their time of prayer or devotion. They seem unconscious of the fact that more and more things are getting in front of their faithfulness to God and His house. Too many seem unfazed that their heart has grown calloused and cold to God’s presence and gentle voice. While we so easily see the transitions of seasons, we often miss the critical changes happening in our lives. I often wonder if Judas knew something was changing in his life. Was he aware that greed was gripping his heart? Could he feel the spirit of deception creeping into his spirit? Could he sense that he was drifting away from Jesus? People don’t go from faithful to unfaithful overnight, it is a process, like the changing of the seasons. We’ve faced a lot of changes over the past 16 months. Something is happening, and while we can’t put our finger on it, we can sense it. A word to the wise. Stay alert, aware and on guard. Be prepared for the new season.
The smell of leaves in the fall. The smell of your favorite coffee brewing. The smell of fresh cookies coming out of the oven or your favorite candle burning. We can all relate to our favorite scent. I remember vividly when the kids were small, Gentry and Risa were on my lap as I read them a story. Periodically, as I was reading, Gentry would lift my hand and sniff my skin. After he had done this a few times, I asked him what he was doing. He said, “smelling you mommy, you smell good.” Of course, as a mom, this made me feel good. I related this moment to our fragrance as it relates to our relationship with God. When our lives are lived to please him, our fragrance matters to Him. Throughout the Bible, scent mattered to God. Some brought Him joy while others made Him recoil. What does the fragrance of your life say to Him? What does it say to the world around you? He loves the scent of love, kindness, and peace. He loves when we speak about Him to others and share the good fragrance of His love to others. He, however, hates the fragrance of gossip, lying and bitterness. What does your scent say to the world around you? Let it be a fragrance that smells like Fall, your favorite cookie or perfume. Let it be a fragrance the world will ask, what is it that I smell? And you can say with confidence, it is the fragrance of a God that loves you more than anything, and you can have that fragrance too.
For forty days he had gotten a glimpse of the possibilities. He had seen the lush crops and amazing groves of fruit. He had walked the streets of large cities and touched their massive walls. He has walked through beautiful valleys, and now, he’s standing near picturesque farm on the ridge of a mountain. As a breeze blows through his hair and the sun sets, all he can hear is the words of the Lord, “go and spy out the land I am going to give you.” With that, he along with nine other spies, head back to camp. To his amazement, only he and Joshua have a good report, all the others see obstacles where he had seen opportunity. In a moment, his dreams are dashed by the lack of faith and vision in others. For forty years he will pay the penalty for the doubt of others. Finally, the visionless pass, and a new generation of faith stand ready. A generation with a leader who says, “we can conqueror, we can possess.” Passion and possibility are alive. Joshua leads Israel through a dry Jordan River and into the Promised Land. Victories come quickly, and within a short time, Israel has conquered the land. Within days of the final conquest, Caleb stands in the tent of Joshua asking, “give me my mountain.” Though his dream had been delayed, and journey difficult, Caleb’s passion for his promise had not wavered. He had not forgotten what he had seen standing on that ridge forty years earlier. I’m sure he often wondered if he would ever see it, but now possibility is reality. He holds the deed to his promise. What dream has God given you? Hang on to it. Though it may seem dead, it’s likely just dormant. Never let go of your dreams, don’t doubt God. What you have seen and what you have heard will come to pass.
How often do you read your Bible? Every day? Once a week? A couple times a month? Never? I ask because a person that doesn’t read their Bible regularly, particularly a person who calls themselves a Christian, is a danger to the kingdom of God. Why? Several reasons. First, if a person is not reading their Bible, it means they are not in an intimate relationship with Jesus. To know Jesus, we should want to know His Word. There should be a passion to find out ways to know him better, to understand His values, principles and what His plans are. It’s through the Bible that God speaks to us. Second, a person who is not reading their Bible has no idea of what the Bible says, they can’t define right and wrong, are confused by cultural challenges, and they are entertained by messages that are more about pop culture and trendy concepts. Without reading our Bible we define morality and Biblical values based on popular opinion or the latest Christian trend. This allows churches and ministers to say anything to their audience. Simply put, if an audience isn’t reading their Bible, there is no accountability for that church or its ministers. Finally, when people don’t read their Bible, Christianity can be redefined. There becomes confusion. People begins to question what it means to be a Christian. In the lives of Christians, whose life are not based in the Word of God, one can be lgbt, support abortion, have loose morals, abuse substances, watch questionable programing and dress inappropriately and feel no conviction, guilt, or remorse. Without the Word of God as our compass and final source of authority, we have worthless Christianity that has no more value than those who live without Christ. As we work through the Month of the Family, make a fresh commitment to spending time reading your Bible and building its importance in your family.
Jesus. Right now, say His name out loud. It doesn’t have to be screamed or shouted, it can be spoken in a gentle whisper, but know this, when you say it, all creation hesitates. Every demon in hell, disease, sickness, evil and dark spirit pauses. Water waits to see if it must turn to wine, sickness waits to see if it can continue, and death waits to see if it must release its grip. Philippians 2:11 says, “that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Simply put, the name of Jesus is the most powerful word you will ever speak. We must remind ourselves often of the power in the name of Jesus, and not only be reminded of it, but choose to use His name. We must teach our kids and this generation to say the name of Jesus in any situation. It’s not a magical word, it is the word that has supreme authority. James 2:19 says, you believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. I am reminded that all Jesus did was step on the Gadarenes seashore and demons that had controlled a man and confounded a region for years, instantly cried for mercy, begging Jesus to let them go into pigs. They knew who Jesus was, His power and immediately relented in cowardness. We have access through faith, to ask anything in His name. John 14:14 says, “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” Our asking must be in alignment with His plan and purpose, it can’t be done in selfishness, but when we ask in faith, anything is possible. Where does salvation begin? By calling on the name of Jesus. Acknowledging our need for Him. It’s here we begin the journey that takes us to repentance and baptism. The name of Jesus. Say it now, say it often. Say it with confidence.
Labor Day. The unofficial end of summer and the beginning of fall. It’s when we move from t-shirts to sweaters. We put away the sandals and bring out the boots. We’re already starting to feel a few of those crisp fall nights. Soon mums and pumpkins will be on the front porch, and we’ll be raking leaves. At Life, fall is when we turn our focus to our families, we call September, “The Month of the Family.” The idea comes from the Old Testament when Israel would gather as a nation. These gatherings were so important that they did them three times a year. These get-togethers focused on the families of Israel recommitting their lives and families to God, remembering God’s goodness, and celebrating life with good food and friends. Important values then, important values still today. So, what should we focus on during the Month of the Family? The same things that Israel did. Reconnect to God. Make sure you, your spouse and children are committed to God first, that we remember that He is our priority and source of our successes. Second, reconnect to each other. This means being intentional, it is saying my family is my priority. Spend time, talking listening and laughing. Ride bikes, take walks, play games. It is all about saying life gets busy, but you are the most significant part of my life. Finally, it’s connecting with your church family. There are co-workers and acquaintances, but then there are those who will be with you in tough times, that’s your church family. This month FSM will be going to Top Golf, we’ll have special men’s and ladies only evenings, and it will culminate with our annual Chili Cook-off, the one event you don’t want to miss. Plan to reconnect to God, your family, and your church. Join us this September as we celebrate family.2
Back to School 2021. For parents, the educational challenges may seem overwhelming, and students have uncertainty as they walk into climates that are more diverse than ever. Some have opted for private schools, others have chosen schooling from home, still, many must rely on the public school system. How do we navigate through the changing landscape of moral and social issues being taught in our schools? Truthfully, I don’t have the answer, but I am confident of one thing, that God can empower every student, to not only survive, but thrive. How? It will take intentionality, perseverance, and dependence on God. As parents, we must be intentional about covering our students daily in prayer. As families, we must be unwavering in creating and maintaining spiritual atmospheres in our homes. Finally, we must be committed and faithful to God’s house. It’s in His house where we will get strength for the challenges, wisdom for the tough times, and experience the Spirit in ways that will empower us. Am I confident our students can survive? Yes, and not only survive, but become powerful spiritual influencers. The Bible is filled with young people who lived in godless societies, with young men who became powerful leaders, who turned their nation back to God, in incredibly dark times. Esther stood in the face of evil, had bold courage, and saved her entire nation from certain extinction. Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego stood in the face of incredible pressure, to bow to godlessness of their society, and caused an entire nation to say, “your Lord, He is God.” Today, perspective is important. How we look at the challenges is critical. Do we view them as overwhelming or as opportunities? If we get it right, we educate and train, if we are faithful, it might be that these students become the new generation that are called “heroes of the faith.”
Have you ever seen someone walk a high wire? What does it take? One word, balance. Many have poles, some use their arms, but all must have incredible balance. Balance, it’s something we’ve lost in our society. It seems that everyone must be democratic or republican, liberal or conservative, pop-culture or sub-culture. There appears to be no place for someone who wants to be in the middle. Someone once told me that if you try to live in the middle you end up getting ran over by people on both sides. It seems to me that too many people have lost the concept of living a balanced life. We camp in extremes. Whether it is ministers, churches, Christians, or people in general, we tend to only associate with those who are like us, agree with our positions and do what we do. I’m thankful for Nathaniel Urshan, the pastor I had as a young man. He invited ministers to his pulpit who were young and old, conservative or liberal, same in doctrine and some who were slightly different. You couldn’t put him in a camp, he associated with so many. He pastored his saints as individuals, and allowed people to be distinctive, there was room in his church for all types of personalities. He didn’t condone all they did, nor did he condemn, he preached with conviction, taught with passion, and loved with Godly compassion. His example has been the blueprint of how I’ve tried to live my life, in balance. As a parent, I’ve tried to live steadily before my kids, as a person, I’ve tried to live moderately, and as a pastor I’ve tried to invite all kinds of people to the Life pulpit. My advice today, live in the middle, invite all kinds of people into your life. Learn from them. Maybe, if enough of us get in the middle, people will see more of Jesus.
Recently the classic movie, Field of Dreams, produced in 1989 with Kevin Cosner came to life. In the movie, Cosner is at his farm when he hears a voice that says, “if you build it, they will come.” In brief, Cosner builds a diamond and one evening two teams come out of the corn field, play a game, and then disappear back into the field never to be seen again. Thursday night the movie came to life when the Chicago White Sox played the New York Yankees in front of a little over 7,000 fans in Dyersville, Iowa. It was an instant classic. Cosner walked out of the corn field toward second base tossing a baseball, turned and looks back toward center field, and suddenly White Sox and Yankee players start pouring out of the corn field onto the diamond. Talking about goose bumps! Turns out I wasn’t alone, over five and a half million people tuned in to watch the game, over three times as many viewers as for a normal game. It was truly an “if you build it, they will come moment.” The game inspired me as I thought about the purpose of Life. While there are many churches that are doing good works, we at Life are in pursuit of a move of the Spirit like in the book of Acts. A moment, an experience, that can only be defined as, “undeniable, but indescribable.” It will take lots of prayer, sacrifice and time, but it we will pursue it, it will happen, and people will come. Often people approach us with dreams they have had about Life. They’ve seen cars waiting to turn in to the campus, the auditorium filled to capacity and God’s presence moving authentically. Many days a wonder if this could be the day, the moment. What I believe is this, if we build it (pray, sacrifice, commit), the Spirit will fall, and people will come.
Christian artist Donnie McClurkin wrote a song many years ago entitled, “Stand.” It’s a song that I love to go back to when life gets difficult and I’m unsure of what to do. The initial verse opens with a series of questions, the first, “what do you do, when you’ve done all you can, and feels like it never enough.” It continues with “what do you do when you given it all, and it seems like you can’t make it through. Each verse continues with similar difficult situations, asking the same question, what do you do when… Thankfully, McClurkin doesn’t just ask questions, but offers solutions. It’s found in the chorus, “well you just stand, when there’s nothing left to do, you just stand, watch the Lord see you through, yes, after you done all you can, you just stand.” While his solution sounds simple, I’ve often found it to be the best answer. When Moses and the children of Israel stood in front of an impossibility, the Red Sea, God’s word to Moses for the people, “stand and see the glory of the Lord.” What did the disciples do when being accused in court by Pharisees and the Sanhedrin? They stood and said we will not deny the name or power of Jesus. How have we survived hardships, hurts and difficulties? What has been the solution to the issues and battles we’ve faced as a family? Simple. Stand. Stand on the Word of God. Stand in your faith. Stand on your knees in prayer. Stand in the power of God. Make the last nine words of McClurkin’s song your statement after every question, storm, or battle of life; “After you’ve done all you can, you just stand.”
I was 10 and in the fifth grade. Hurdles were a big deal to me. With long legs, speed, and tenacity I somehow managed to win the hurdles race at my school. With the win, I got to go to the high school track. I remember thinking, “how in the world did I get here”. I don’t remember if I won in my age group, but I do remember advancing and feeling proud to run the hurdle race for my school. Years later my daughter Risa decided to run hurdles at her school also, I was proud that she wanted to compete in the same race I did. It takes courage to run hurdles. Each jump must be perfect; you are always hoping you don’t trip and land on your face. Watching the summer Olympics, I gasped when a young lady who had worked her entire life to have an opportunity to be in the Olympics, crashed as she jumped the first hurdle. I understood her pain, though I can’t imagine the anguish she felt to do it on a world stage. She had worked hard and made it to the Olympics and though painful to fall, she should stand proud of the fact she had raced. In the race of life, we need to remember all of us have been chosen to run. We must never lose our tenacity, courage to run and our desire to conquer every hurdle that is put in our path. We were created to compete and although there will be times we may fall, trip and skin our knees, we must get up and keep running. All of us that stay in the race will win because Jesus promised He was going to prepare a place for those who finish the race. So, run and never give up. Jesus is cheering for you!
His yard has shade trees, fruit trees, cement and gravel patios, beautiful flowers, and lots of space to roam. The grass is lush and green, and the yard has been sprayed so there are no weeds or bugs. There is a fence to keep people and large animals from entering; he is protected. It should be a paradise. But for Gentry’s dog, JJ, it is not. He is constantly escaping through the fence to get on the other side. For some reason he feels as though the grass is green on the other side of the fence. It’s not. In fact, there are more weeds and bugs, and it is definitely not as safe. Next door are several large dogs and a few yards to the west, is a golf course where he could easily be hit by a ball. Travel a few yards east and he’s in the street where he could be hit by a car, or someone could take him. We’ve done all that we can to protect JJ, but regardless of how hard we try, we can’t protect him from himself. Kind of a snapshot of what God has done for us. God has given us everything we need to have a beautiful life. He has set parameters in place for our protection, to keep us safe. Yet, like JJ, many see the grass greener on the other side of the fence. For some reason much of humanity see sin as liberty; that on the other side of God’s Word and warnings, there is something better. Our world advertises happiness, freedom, and liberty without God, but way too often it’s filled with hurt, brokenness and pain. Learn to live in God’s constraints and all the good things He has prepared for you. Regardless of how it may look, living inside the fence is the best life.
Suppose your vehicle breaks down and you are given two options for repair. Option one is that you take your vehicle to an individual who is well studied in auto mechanics, often speaks at seminars about auto repair and can debate with great skill on how a vehicle should be fixed. His garage is state of the art, immaculate and has the latest technology. Option two is that you can take your vehicle to an individual who may or may not have an auto mechanics degree, but has worked on all types of vehicles, daily for over 30 years. His place is nice, but not as immaculate, his tools are worn and soiled, but you can ask him a question on nearly any issue, and he can give you an idea about what the problem may be without going to a manual. Where are you going to take your car? I don’t know about you, but my Toyota is headed to the garage where the mechanic has experience. Why? Because experience is often more valuable than information. We live in a world where people have all kinds of opinions on the Spirit. We’ve got pastors and individuals that have a variety of opinions, theories, and beliefs. They love to set around an argue and talk apologetics. There’s one thing they are missing. A book of Acts, fire falling, language changing experience. Until someone has experienced what Simon Peter, those in the upper room and the church in Acts experienced, their arguments are just conjecture. An experience changes everything. Job said, I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You. Someone may know that fire is hot and dangerous, but until they’ve had a first-, second-, or third-degree burn, they don’t know fire. Don’t let someone without an upper room experience explain away a book of Acts move of God in your life. Seek an experience.
You walk into a store and begin to look around. After perusing the store for a few minutes, you realize everything is slightly used, marginally broken, missing something or has been returned. A button is absent on a shirt. A vase has a miniscule chip. An appliance is in an open box. Almost everything in the store is useable, though some things seem, slightly defective. Some would walk away, only wanting something that is new, while others might think, “I’ll take a chance, I think I can work with this, or I can fix this.” Much of our home is filled with items bought at consignment stores, garage sales and secondhand retailers. Mary and I find pleasure in the search and getting great deals. One day, as I was reflecting on our finds, God gave me a gentle nudge, basically saying, what you do with things is what I do with people. God loves taking broken, hurting, and damaged people and putting them back together. Understand, all humanity is broken, all of us. In fact, if you get to know most of the Life Community, you will find it is filled with people who are or have been broken. Some of us are still missing some pieces in our lives and others God is still working on. If you are looking for a perfect friendship, perfect pastor or perfect church community, Life is probably not the place for you. But, if you are slightly broken, are willing to take a chance on God and some other damaged people, you will find some amazing treasures at Life. Get around some of us and you will find a few knobs or buttons missing, and you might find a few chips in our personalities or attitudes, but we are all becoming God’s treasures. He’s taken a chance on us. We’ve been blood bought and we’re now a work in progress. Life, a place to find or become a gently used treasure.
Freedom. It is the exemption from external control, interference, regulation. It’s the power to determine action without restraint. For many freedom means the ability to make our own decisions, go where we want and do what we want. Those who love to go to the lake and water-skiing experience a taste of freedom. There’s a liberating feeling on a warm summer day when water is spraying in your face as you skim along a lake, but are you truly free? Let the boat run out of gas or let go of the rope and the liberating ride is over. Ski the Rockies, nothing says freedom like a crisp Colorado morning and fresh powder. One of the most freeing feelings is casually meandering down a mountains slope, but again, are we actually free? Come to the bottom of the mountain or the end of the snowpack and once again the freedom ride is over. As Americans we champion the freedoms of our country, and while I am thankful, we are watching as our freedoms are slowly being taken away. So, where can we really find freedom? One source, Jesus. John 8:36 says, “…the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” This world is built on control, someone or something is always saying you can’t. Only life in Jesus truly liberates. Sickness may come, death will visit, and hard times might come but those things don’t rule those in Christ. We may fall to sin or fail miserably, but sin does not dominate those redeemed by Jesus. How? Simple. Those in Christ are not controlled or bound by this life. They have been set free. This life is temporal and while we hurt, grieve, and face difficult situations, we live this life in the freedom beyond the grave. We know a day is coming when we will truly be free. Today, July 4th, I invite you to experience the true freedom only found in Jesus.
James Springer wanted a Happy Meal. The problem was that it was ten o’clock in the morning and McDonald’s didn’t start serving lunch until 10:30a.m. According to the news, Springer became upset when they told him it was too early for a Happy Meal, so upset that he threatened to kill all the employees. Thankfully, the authorities were called, Springer was arrested, and the crisis was diffused. The whole story is a sad snapshot of where our society currently is. We have lost the art of being content, and appreciative. The issue of contentment is not new, but one humanity has dealt with from the beginning of time. Eve is blessed with a perfect world, but Satan subtlety convinces her she is not enough, that she doesn’t have enough. David marries King Saul’s beautiful daughter, but finds himself discontent, and nearly loses the kingdom and his family in his pursuit of Bathsheba. What about you? Are you constantly in pursuit of something? Are you continually upgrading to the latest phone, bigger tv or latest style? May I ask, at what point will you find contentment? In Philippians 4:11 Paul says, “I have learned to be content.” Contentment isn’t something you arrive at once you get a certain item, join a social group or get an amount of money or fame. Contentment is a decision. That’s why Paul says, “I have learned.” This world always had us pursuing after the latest and the greatest. One of the best places we can come to in our lives, is when we come to the point where we can say to this world, “no, I don’t need that, that’s nice but I have enough, I am content.” Whether it’s a hamburger, fries, and soft drink in a cute little box with a prize or the latest must have item, learn to say, “I can be Happy without a Happy Meal.
There is only one book that I ever remember my dad reading. I’d see it open on the kitchen table during his devotion or laying open on his lap as he was preparing for his next sermon. In pictures you’d see it proudly tucked under his arm. The Bible was his strength. It was priceless to him. His Bible is etched in my memory, and its left a profound impression on my life. With Father’s Day approaching I began to think about his Bible. I began the search to find out which of my brothers or sisters had inherited his brown, leather Bible, worn from many hours of reading and teaching from it. Most thought my oldest brother was the lucky recipient. It wasn’t him. We went down the line from the oldest to the youngest; all eleven of us were asked. I was devastated to find out no one knew what had happened to his Bible nor did any of them have it in their possession. I was anxious to see how marked up it was and to look at the worn pages. I wanted to see if he had written along the margins. Unfortunately, his Bible is gone. Unless a miracle happens, we will never see it again, except for in pictures. As we celebrate this Father’s Day, if you were asked, what is your favorite book, what would your answer be? With all the amazing books out there, let it always be said that your Bible is your most treasured asset. Don’t let it go missing. You will never regret it and hopefully your kids will treasure it when your life has ended and say, “my dad loved this book the most.” To my hero, my dad, thank you for leaving an example of loving the Bible, and leaving me memories that will last the rest of my life.
The woods at the Hudson home are silent. We have been blessed and highly favored. Why? Because while many here in Indiana are dealing with the singing cicadas, thus far, we have not. The cicada invading Indiana is the 17-year variety, and I guess, because they only show up every 17 years, they’ve chosen to be quite the nuisance. Since our woods have been silent, we’ve taken a few “Fishers field trips,” where it is VERY obvious when you’ve found the little critters. You instantly hear a sound that boarders somewhere between screeching of fingernails on a chalk board and a cat getting its tail stepped on. One other thing we noticed is that their eyesight isn’t too keen. They fly everywhere, and into anything, including your face, car windshield, and of course, any open window or door. To those who are reading this, know the racket and intrusion, will soon be over. By early July the little darlings will be gone for another 17 years. Cicada season brings an important question. What do you do when a “season” hits your life? You endure. Persevere. You hang on to the words of Solomon who said, “to everything there is a beginning and an ending.” To everyone who is going through a “season,” hang on! Gods got you, you will make it through. It may seem like the noise of life is excruciating and the intrusions are more than you can bare, but just keep believing and trusting in God. Stay on your knees and in the Book. He will see you through. Matthew 24:13 says it well, “but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” My solution for surviving your season may seem simple, but like dealing with cicadas, you really don’t have any other choice, save getting some good ear plugs and keeping your windows closed.
“It was on fire when I laid down on it,” that was the man’s response when asked by an investigator about the fire that had ravaged his home. His response to the investigator begs for a follow-up question, why would you lay down in a bed that was on fire? The follow-up question leaves room for the imagination to go wild as for the response you might get back. I was really tired. I didn’t think I’d get burned. It was just a small fire. Whatever the response, there is no good reason for laying down on a bed that is on fire. While we laugh at the story, in reality, many of us do things that don’t make sense. Yards away from the Promised Land, after experiencing miracle after miracle for two months, the children of Israel reject God and meander in the wilderness for 40 years. That is a “it was on fire when I laid down on it” moment. Judas, chosen to spend three- and one-half years with Jesus, God with us, watches as Jesus opens blinded eyes, deaf ears and raises the dead to life and decides to betray him for 30 pieces of silver. Definitely a “it was on fire when I laid down on it” moment. What choices are you making now that the future will make it obvious that they were unwise? Putting almost everything ahead of being faithful to God’s house, thinking it won’t make that much of a difference, that it’s not that dangerous. Investing in our kids’ extra-curricular endeavors while not valuing the importance of knowing God, Biblical doctrine and experiencing His presence. Dabbling in things that take us away from our sensitivity to God and His presence and thinking, I won’t get burned. A simple suggestion today. Don’t lay down in something that is burning.