We were on a two-lane road in upper Michigan surrounded by pine trees and snow. Picturesque, but not necessarily the place to be when you are looking for lunch. We came to a wide gap in the road when we saw a sign, “Antlers, A One-of-a-Kind Experience.” We started to pass it by, but something said, give it a run. What we experienced over the next hour can only be describe as “good food turned into an incredible dining experience. It all started with our waitress, Jan. A 50ish old red headed woman who could have sold ice cubes to an Eskimo. From the moment we met Jan it was as she had known us for 10 years, and it seemed whatever we asked for, she was determined to make happen. When I asked if they had sweet tea, she said no, but I can make it happen. I assumed that meant a pack of sugar, but instead she returned with a glass half filled with tea and ice, a cup of hot tea, and instructions of how to mix it so it would be as good as that “southern stuff.” Every dish was described as though it was the best that had ever been made and when we settled on the “Amazing Pot Pie,” we asked if we could split it, she said, “absolutely, but it might be a little small.” We were fine with that and then ordered our salad which involved Jan describing the favor of every dressing in detail. The meal presentation was top shelf, and the food was good beyond description. Stuffed like it was Thanksgiving, Jan somehow convinced us we needed one of the home desserts. We still don’t know how she did it, but somehow, she convinced us we needed two, one for now and one to take home. . . we bought both! For Jan, Antler’s was not a job, it was a passion. She didn’t just serve food, she created an atmosphere and made our dinner an experience. Her spirit and attitude made us wonder what it would be like if a church community had the same attitude, that church wasn’t just a Sunday thing, but a personal passion. How might it impact change someones concept of church?
It started with a call from Risa on Monday morning. “Dad did you hear? We’re going to have a blizzard; they’re saying we could have 18 inches of snow and 40mph winds. . . it the blizzard you’ve always prayed for!” As many of you know, I am the blizzard guy. For years I’ve prayed for my kids to experience what I experienced in 1978. But this news created a problem. We had just arrived in Orange Beach to spend a few days with my parents. I was setting in the sun on a patio enjoying the warm temperatures and watching the waves. I was about to miss the answer to prayer and likely never live down the fact that I was setting on a beach after praying for a blizzard for years. As fate would have it, situations at the church forced us to return early Wednesday morning, meaning we would get to experience the blizzard. But, as it always seems to happen, the storm weakened, and we just got a nice winter storm. This week’s event spoke to my heart and reminded me how easy it is to miss moments that we’ve prayed for. It’s exactly what happened to five virgins. Reflecting on the story in Matthew 25, there were ten virgins waiting for a groom who was delayed. In a tragic ending, five virgins missed their dream moment by not being at the right place at the right time. Why be faithful to prayer and devotional time? Why make God’s house our top priority? Because we never know when God may show up or answer a prayer. Whether it’s doing something, that at the moment seems important, like getting oil, or doing something innocent, like setting on a beach, as often as possible, be faithful to God’s house and your devotional time. Don’t miss your moment.
Same health club, same routine, but we were not ready for what awaited us this day. We hopped on our ellipticals and began our half hour journey to nowhere. As we’re walking, I begin to take inventory of those around us. First, I notice a man in front of us, probably mid-forties, in full business casual on the treadmill, he’s kick’ in it in what appears to be Sketchers, khaki pants with a belt, and a long sleeve polo. I give a head motion to Mary, and there’s instant laughter. Trying to gain composure, we look to our right and see a young lady on a treadmill, she’s wearing earbuds, gray sweatpants, a pink sweater, and a toboggan. The toboggan seems a tad strange, but it’s the fashion statement of the day, so we roll with it. What catches our attention is what happens next, within seconds after noticing her, she breaks out into full Michael Jackson on her treadmill. I’m now a tad stunned. Not to be a gawker, I look to the right of her to see someone who should not be wearing a two-piece workout outfit. She too is startled and staring at Michael Jackson in a toboggan doing her thing. Suddenly, as not to be outdone, she turns around backwards and attempts to run on her treadmill, thankfully this only last a few seconds, and she wisely decides to walk backwards instead. Don’t understand the purpose, but to each their own. Finally, trying to bring some semblance and normalcy back to the day, I look down our row to see a man going full speed on his elliptical with a towel covering his entire head…he sees nothing. Whether this is intentional we will never know. I continue to walk and think, I get the man with the towel on his head. My point in all this. Sometimes it’s just good to do your thing, keep on walking, and live for another day.
How far do you want mercy and grace to extend? Past your latest sin? Past your struggling weakness? Past your worst failure? Past your past? We’re all in when God stoops down, writes something in the sand, and forgives the woman caught in adultery. We love when Jesus cleanses the heart of the woman who has had five husbands and is living with a sixth man. But the real challenge comes when we must be like Jesus; forgive, extend grace, and show the mercy to others as he has done for us. What I’ve found is that it is much easier to receive mercy than to extend it. We hold on to grudges, are judge and jury, and hold on to pains that someone else caused. Is it possible that what made David a man after God’s heart wasn’t that he was perfectly Holy or righteous, but that he extended the same grace that God had extended to him to others? David had been pursued by King Saul for years, but when given the chance to exact revenge, he exhibited mercy. Saul is pursuing David and comes into a cave where David is hiding. David has the perfect opportunity to take Saul’s life, but instead, he cuts a corner off Saul’s garment and extends mercy. In another moment, Saul and his men fall asleep and David walks into the camp unnoticed. Standing over the problem of his life, instead of taking his life, he takes a few utensils and a sword and walks away. As we start this year, I encourage you to forgive, show compassion and extend mercy to those who have hurt you or have caused you pain. Why? Because if we want grace and mercy to go beyond our failures and shortcomings, we need to make sure it goes beyond what others need also.
It’s decision time! It’s a new year and with it comes the choice to plant new seeds. It matters what we plant at the beginning of our year, because eventually, what we plant comes to life and bares fruit. Here in Indiana, farmers decide in the winter what will be in their fields, whether wheat, beans, or corn and they have no doubt that what they plant will show up later in the year. Paul cautions the Galatians of the importance of the sowing and reaping principle, that it is not just an agricultural matter, but that it is also a spiritual one. Want to experience the presence and power of God? Want to see the hand of God impact your life? Sow correctly. Sow faithfulness to God’s house. Invest regularly in prayer and devotion. Invite God to be more involved in your daily life. Start or get involved in a small group. Sow kindness, mercy, and grace. All of these are seeds, that if planted, will lead to a God impacted future. Likewise, if we sow to our fleshly or selfish desires, we will reap the fruit of those seeds DNA. Farmers don’t plant corn and expect apples, neither can we plant to the flesh and expect to see God’s presence in a new dimension. Finally, I encourage you to plant spiritual seed generously. Paul said to the Corinthians, “I plant, Apollos watered, but it is God who gives the increase.” In essence, the more we plant in the Spirit, the more we give God an opportunity to multiply and bless. As you start your year, take time to think about what you want to experience in God and then plant abundantly.
It was a new day and a new beginning. Standing on the banks of the Jordon River looking into the land that God had promised, there had to be anticipation. One wonders the imagination people had as they prepared to move. After years of being transient, what would it be like to have a home? What vineyards and crops would they inherit? How would God be involved in their future? Wives would get to decorate a permanent dwelling. Men would farm the land, barter for goods, and establish economy. It would be a year like none before and bring opportunities beyond their wildest dreams. In some ways, that is where we stand as we enter in 2022. What will the year hold? What changes are in store? As a Christian we should walk into the new year with expectations. We should ask God to use our lives and let us experience His power in new dimensions. This year engage with God in a new way. Beyond being a Sunday Christian, seek God, ask Him to give you purpose beyond your 8-5. Engage with God and ask Him to use your skills and talents in a way that might bless His kingdom and potentially be the catalyst for someone coming to Christ. Where does it start? It starts with an invitation; by humbling ourselves before God. That’s why we’re starting the year with our LifeFast. Fasting positions us in the best place to see God glory, experience His presence, and be led by His Spirit. Why not take your 2022 to a new dimension? Open your heart and life to all the possibilities that God may have for you. Join us for LifeFast.
With each New Year comes a blank canvas; an opportunity to entertain new aspirations, make fresh commitments, and vow to make pivotal changes in our lives. In the Bible the word for year is shannah and it can have a different meaning depending on the usage. The first meaning is to duplicate or repeat, as in repeating of the seasons of a year. The second definition is to change, as in, things will be different. What happens in 2022? What will your year look like? A lot depends on how we view our possibilities and opportunities. Will it be a year where we repeat much of what we have done in years gone by or will it be year where we embrace some alterations in our lives and venture in unknown territory? Some repetition is good, good habits and practices are good, but sometimes repetition can lead to stagnation. Our nature is to make commitments but after a few days or weeks, fall back into our old habits and routines. Change is never easy, but often necessary to move into a new dimension of life. Change takes openness, vision, and trusting in God. Change isn’t always comfortable, can feel awkward and scary, but it is here that we often see God in new dimensions. Interested? Seek God with all your heart, choose to live in bold faith, pray big prayers, decide to walk in the Spirit one day at a time. 2022, a year or repetition or change? The answer rests in your hands.