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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
She had search for years, forty in fact. She had tried ointments and medicines. She had gone to doctor after doctor and tried every imaginable option. She was desperate for relief, for healing, for a miracle. She had spent more money than she could count, but no matter what she tried, the outcome was always the same, her sickness was still with her. When someone mentioned the healer Jesus, she was reluctant, maybe even a little sarcastic, but deep inside her heart there was still a measure of hope. When the word came that Jesus was coming to her town, she pushed passed her previous disappointments and headed to where they said Jesus would be. As she nears where Jesus is, she sees the crowd, and for a moment she considers turning around and heading home, but the same hope that had caused her to try every medicine, meet every doctor, and spend whatever it cost, said press on. So, she did, pushing through the crowd, she can only catch the hem of Jesus’ garment. What happens next is beyond her imagination. An indescribable feeling runs through her body, instantly she knows something has changed. No one has to tell her, no one has to verify what has happened, she knows. . . she gasps and whispers to herself, “I’m healed.” No one in the crowd knows, and if it had not been for Jesus pausing, she could have walked away whole. But Jesus stops, asking what the crowd and disciples think is an absurd question, “someone has touched me.” The disciples state the obvious, “Master, everyone has touched you.” But then Jesus clarifies, it wasn’t just a touch, but a touch of faith, a touch of hope, a touch that took virtue out of Jesus’ body and brought healing to the woman. Her life is forever changed because she never quit searching, never gave up. If you’re searching for answers to problems in your life, searching for a solution to difficult circumstances, search for Jesus and keep searching until you find Him. While you may not find your answer today or tomorrow, if you keep on searching and keep looking with purpose, you will find Him. And when you find Him, you will find the answer to so many questions and the solution to so many problems and difficulties. You can try everything you know to solve the issues you are dealing with, but when every other possibility fails, and it feels hopeless, know that if you haven’t tried Jesus, you still have hope, and He was your best option all along.
For nearly 20 years as Pastor of Life and 35 years of ministry, Mary and I have built our life and preaching on four basic principles. These are based in the Word of God and are the foundations of our faith and belief. As we close our chapter here at Life, we remind you of them and encourage you to never let anyone move you away from them.
There is One God.
Deuteronomy 6:4 – Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one [the only God]!
- God has many dimensions, but He is one.
- God is multifaceted and multidimensional, but one.
The Word of God is Above All.
Luke 21:33 – Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.
- Make God’s Word priority above all and let it lead you through life.
- Do not be swayed by books, men’s concepts, or religion. Stay in God’s Word
- Read the Bible with prayer.
These two ideas are summed in John 1:1 where John says, In the beginning was the Word, tyand the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Prayer must be a Life Priority.
Matthew 21:13 – It is written [in Scripture], ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer.
- Pray first in every situation knowing prayer can change any situation.
- Prayer will guide, protect, and keep you when confusion comes.
Water & Spirit Baptism is Essential.
John 3:5 – Jesus answered, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot [ever] enter the kingdom of God.
- These are the words of Jesus, put them above every man and religion.
- Believing, faith, and obedience is critical, but never leave this foundational statement of Jesus.
- Acts time frame is from 30 to 70 and every epistle, which were written to churches and saints, were written between 30 to 70. We find clarity and growth in the epistles. There is one message and experience in Acts. Baptism in the name of Jesus and baptism in the Spirit with a language unknown.
As this chapter of our life closes, Mary and I want to thank everyone who has ever been a part of Life and allowed us to be your pastor. It has been an amazing journey and incredibly fulfilling to see so many lives impacted by the gospel. I will continue this weekly blog online and we look forward to what God has in the future for Mary and I. May God’s blessings and favor rest on each of you. Reach one more for Jesus!
Creating a spiritual atmosphere in your life and home is critical to your overall success. Whether it’s in your church, home, individual life, having the ambience of the Spirit is of upmost importance. David created an atmosphere of integrity early in his life. His ruthless band of men became enamored when David refused to seize the moment and kill King Saul, in so doing he created an atmosphere of trust in a group of men who trusted no one. Paul and Silas set in a jail bruised and battered with a choice between whining and worshiping. They chose to worship and dark, dreary, and oppressive jail became a sanctuary of praise. Changing the atmosphere opened cell doors, released other prisoners, and brought a jailer and his family to God. What atmosphere are you creating? Are you a part of bringing an electric atmosphere to Life Connections? Is your home a home where there is a negative or positive vibe? Do people walk away from you downcast or exhilarated? Each day we chose the atmosphere will create. At Life we’ve been intentional over the years to create two specific atmospheres. One of prayer and the other yielding to the Spirit. We understand that for any ministry to be impactive it must be saturated with prayer. We also know that everything we do, and in every moment, we must allow the Spirit to have liberty. Paul said in 2 Corinthians that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” These two atmospheres are not accidents at Life but have been intentionally created. They are our DNA and what we must make sure never fades or lose relevance. How about your home? What is the atmosphere inside your four walls? Take time this week to reflect and pray about the atmosphere of your home and then set to create a place that your friends and family will love to visit.
It was just a small box. It was called a phylactery or tefillin. It was worn by Hebrews, a part of their clothing. The boxes contained a portion of scripture and were to serve as a reminder that God was with them as they went about their day. If they were weary or overwhelmed, the box reminded them at God would never leave them or forsake them. If they were under siege, they were reminded that God would fight their battles. If sickness came, it served as assurance that God was a healer of all diseases. At first it might have seemed to be a chore to wear, maybe even a little inconvenient, but over time, it likely became the first article they put on as they started the day. Once a person understands the power in knowing that God is with you, on your side, it changes everything. You go into every day, every situation, and every battle with a different confidence. I believe David understood this as he faced Goliath, hid from Saul, and fought battle after battle. When he said, “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,” he literally had seen God’s favor and blessings fall his way. This is why every year we give students a towel, a wristband, or a trinket as they head back to school. It’s our way to remind them that they are favored and blessed, that they have a God covering, and that they can walk into school with confidence. This years band has Joshua 1:9 etched on it and says, “God is with you wherever you go.” We believe with all that they will face they need to know one thing, that every day God is with them! As they slip one on their wrist today, we pray that like the Hebrews of old, it becomes a daily part of their apparel. Wear the Word!
For most of our lives Friday night at the Hudson home has involved pizza, games, or some crazy activity. This weekend was no different. After some pizza and banter, the conversation turned to what would be the activity of the evening. I’m not sure who suggested it, but the idea of golf ball hunting was brought up, and moments later Gent, Jake, Ris, and myself were in the woods. To give you a visual, it looked something like Easter for grown-ups. We scoured the woods looking for golf balls as though they were gold, and twenty minutes later, we strolled out with 137 golf balls! We celebrated with a photo session and perusing the mirage of colors and brands. As I reflected on our haul, I was amazed that 137 people, unless some had hit multiple shots into the woods, had chosen to leave their golf ball. Costing between $2.50 and $5.00 a piece, they were left because their value was not worth the time that it would take to find them. Jesus speaks of going on a search, not for golf balls, but for sheep. It’s the parable where 99 sheep are safe, but one has wondered away and is lost. The parable suggests that though He has 99 sheep, Jesus puts extreme value on one, so much so, that he leaves the herd to find it. His point? There are no unimportant souls, no unimportant people, everyone has value to Jesus. Important to know for ourselves and important to know about the broken and confused around us. Jesus cares, and if He does, we must. Recognize this today, no matter what you have done, you matter. Jesus is searching for you, reaching with grace and mercy . . . and, if He’s doing that for us, how much more should we be reaching for those in a world that is broken and hurting.
The temperature is 93, the humidity is 85 percent, and the “feels like” temperature is 107. Are you sweating and feeling the misery just by reading that sentence? Welcome to summer in Indiana. Where do you want to be when we have one of those days? I either want to be in an air-conditioned room or a vehicle with the A/C blowing full blast. If you can’t be in either one of those places or have a job that requires you to be outside for an extended time, what do you want? Just a breeze. A breeze is defined as a light, gentle wind. It’s enough wind to make the day bearable, give you hope, and cool your brow. If you can find a shade tree and a glass of tea or lemonade, you might consider staying there for a while. How important is a breeze? In Acts 27 Paul is on a ship headed to Italy when conditions begin to deteriorate, for a moment they pause and think of terminating the journey, but Acts 27:12 says, “when a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so, they weighed anchor and sailed. . .” Catch that! They were ready to give up, drop anchor, but a gentle wind changed everything, and they sailed on. Life has its challenges, discouragement comes, but if we catch a breeze, it changes everything. We often look to vacations, entertainment, and other stimulus to give us energy, but Simon Peter says in Acts 3:19 that the refreshing breeze we want is found in repentance. “Repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;” How inspiring! How close are we to a spiritual breeze? As quick as we turn toward God and lean into His overwhelming peace and presence, a breeze of the Spirit will come and invigorate us. Catch a breeze!
High heat and no rain have brought a swift change to our yards. It’s mid-July and they look like its late August, unless you don’t care about your water bill, and have been relentlessly watering. Green lawns that we were constantly mowing in May have turned dry and brown. But take heart, your yard is not dead, it’s dormant. It’s good to know. In most cases you won’t have to reseed, simply wait, and come Fall, rains will come, and your grass will turn green again. The brown isn’t a sign of death, but protection. Built into every blade a grass is the ability to defend itself when times get dry. It will live again. What a novel idea, one not just for grass, but for Christians as well. In life, dry seasons come, God knew that, so he built in safeguards. David explains this in Psalm 23 when he says, “when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” How can he have that confidence? Because he knows he’s got built in protection. He follows up the fear no evil with, “surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.” What David understood we must know; that we all have times of stagnation and dryness. In those seasons, God has not forsaken us, we have not committed the unpardonable sin, or somehow become God’s least favorite child, we are simply going through a tough stretch. It’s just a part of life. When these moments hit, know you’re not dead, just dormant. Stay faithful, keep praying, know that mercy and grace will sustain you, and say to yourself often, I’m not dead, just dormant.
We first noticed him on our way to Saturday night prayer. The him, whoever he was, was about ten years old, standing in front of an elementary school, and wearing a dinosaur outfit. He may not have had the moves like Jagger, but he was definitely dancing creatively. Next to him was another young kid holding up a sign that said, “thought you might need a laugh, if you’re enjoying it, give us a tip.” I was caught off guard by both the dancing dinosaur and the ingenuity of the two to come up with the idea of a way to make money. After our time in prayer, we headed back home, but had to make a stop which took us a different route than the one we had taken to church. Honestly, we had forgotten about our little dancing dinosaur but as we head into downtown Noblesville, I see him again, this time at the town square. His dancing has become more animated and the kid holding the sign has now joined in. I wish I could tell you I stopped and left the two boys a tip, but I can’t, I drove on. But the moment has left an impression on me. In a world that is violent, divided over abortion and social issues, has a terrible war going on in the Ukraine, and has lost its moral compass, two kids said, let’s dance and make people laugh. Let’s dance for ourselves, dance for others, and dance so crazily that it impresses and impacts others. We need more of that, not just from kids, but from adults. It doesn’t take a dinosaur outfit, or Jaggers moves, just an awareness. An awareness that our world is reeling; it’s broken, lost, and desperately in need of someone who can help them see life differently. Ask God, what can I do to encourage, inspire, or lift someone who is heavy with life’s challenges? Then follow that inspiration and makes a difference.
Freedom. We have parades and shoot off fireworks to celebrate it. Yet I’m afraid freedom is a concept that we don’t totally grasp. It’s not necessarily a liberty to do anything, but more, the possibility not to be bound by anything. Early Americans didn’t want liberty to do everything, they wanted freedom to live without being controlled. Unfortunately, far too many who will wave flags and shoot off fireworks this week, are encumbered by bondage. Government and leaders are binding their citizens with humanistic ideas, political and social elites control society with carnal philosophies and beliefs, and the minority wants to set the standard for the majority. Beyond societal oppression, many are bound by the entrapments of this life. Countless are controlled by greed and gold. Others are bound to alcohol, drugs, and perversion. Far too many are overcome by sin that is destroying their lives and families. In Luke 4:18, Jesus said he had come “. . . to proclaim release to the captive. . .to set free those who are oppressed.” Jesus’ freedom liberates us from things that the devil had enticed and trapped us with. It’s Zacchaeus, insnared by greed, being freed by the grace of Jesus. It’s a woman lured into a moment of adultery, freed by the mercy of Jesus. His words to her as he frees her are important, “go and sin no more.” What does he give her? Freedom over sins control over her, the ability to have a different lifestyle, and live untangled from her past and mistakes. In John 8:36 Jesus said to the crowd, “the Son makes you free and you are free indeed.” What does that mean? It means because of Jesus we are no longer controlled by things that overwhelmed and mastered us. We are liberated from sins power and set free from our past mistakes. Live in liberty. Live in the freedom of Jesus!
The smells of life. They are all around us. Some good, some not so good. Smelling the savory smell of good food, flowers in a garden, or the scent of a candle in a store or home, immediately grabs our attention. There are smells we totally miss, and I was unaware I was missing them until we got our little convertible. Now it’s one of our favorite things about our little car. Driving along we will occasionally get a whiff of freshly cut grass, a backyard fire, a barbecue, or the fragrance of a flowering tree. It immediately arrests our attention and stops the conversation; all we want to do is take in the scent. Smells can take us back to special moments in our lives or days gone by. Almost every smell has a story. Imagine smelling the fragrance of the perfume that Mary poured on Jesus’ feet. A stale old room filled with sweaty people is suddenly overwhelmed by an aroma that is pleasant and refreshing. Even if you missed the moment when she anointed his feet, you were instantly aware by the fragrant change that now fills the room. I would imagine that from that day forward, any time anyone caught a scent of that amazing moment, instantly had a flashback to Mary’s amazing act. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:15, “we are the sweet smell of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are being lost.” Whether we realize it or not, each day we put off a scent, a smell of God’s glory or the smell of this world. One is pleasant and refreshing, the other often old and unpleasing. Why do we need a regular time of prayer? It’s where we get the anointing that gives us the right scent. Prayer ensures that our family, friends, and the world we walk in gets the right whiff.
This year I have a completely different take on Father’s Day. I’ve always celebrated my dad and how amazing he is. But this year I’ve watched my husband take on the role of “father” and it’s been such an amazing thing to watch. The first thing that I noticed was when he took on the role of protector. Newborn babies can’t do much to defend or protect themselves, so I think naturally dads take on this role. From the moment we pulled out of the hospital, he tried to avoid every pothole and waited until there was a gap the size of Texas to pull out in front of a car. I’ve always seen the same thing from my dad. I remember the day he tried to teach me how to ride a bike and how protective he was. I was terrified, but there was no way he was going to let me fall. He made sure I knew how the brakes worked and told me that I didn’t have to go fast. I just had to try. He was going to protect me, even if it meant he might get hurt. The same thing is true of God. He is our greatest protector. He sees all things and knows all things. He will give us all the grace we need and will even take the fall with us when we mess up. In Psalm 3:3 it says just that “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” This Father’s Day be thankful for your protectors and a God who’s got you back.
Daughter of Pastor Jon
Wife to Jacob and Mother to Carter
Life’s vision involves three-segments. First, touch God every day. It may change daily, but includes Bible reading, prayer, worship, and devotion. Another segment of our vision is being involved in something that outlives you. A personal ministry, project, or a financial foundation; anything that will leave an imprint on the next generation. A final segment involves intentionally impacting someone’s life every day. That doesn’t mean grabbing a bull horn or bashing them with the Bible. It means being purposeful about making a positive impact on someone daily. Lately the Spirit has been prompting me to be more active in this area. So, I’ve been intentional. A cashier caught my attention with his amazing spirit and attitude, so I gave him a compliment. He lit up like the fourth of July, you would have thought I had given him a hundred-dollar bill. Making a run to the grocery, a group of elementary kids walking to a local park for end of the year festivities, spotted our little red car. They started giving us the “18-wheeler blow the horn motion.” We gave them a beep, beep, smiled, waved and instantly the entire group exploded into laughter and cheers as we drove off. Finally, as we were walking through a park, I noticed a couple meandering slowly up ahead of us. Their spirit seemed heavy, so as we passed, I gave them a smile, “a good morning,” and instantly their countenance changed. The elderly lady said, “yes, it is” and before I knew it, I blurted out the first stanza of Psalm 118:24, “this is the day,” she responded with, “that the Lord has made, and I said, “I will rejoice,” and she completed it with, “and be glad in it.” We left them laughing and with a memory for the day. My point? Impacting others is simple, easy, and cost nothing. Start being intentional about impacting a world that is hopeless, hurting, and broken. Let your positive actions be the conversation at their dinner table.
Spring. It is officially here. If you question it, go to any garden shop. Doesn’t matter if it’s Lowes, Home Depot, or a local nursery, you will be greeted by crowds. All ages and ethnicities with all varieties of plants and flowers in their carts. Drive through any neighborhood and you will see flowerpots and yards filled with an assortment of color: geraniums, petunias, and impatiens. Whether those who are planting realize it or not, they are planting things that require maintenance. If plants are to grow full and lush, they’re going to require fertilizer. Flowers will require getting up early or staying out late for watering. Fail to be disciplined and quickly your flowers and plants will wither and die. As spring turns to summer, other plants begin to appear, ones you did not purchase or plant. Weeds! They require no fertilizer or water, they just grow, grow, and grow. Getting rid of them will require Roundup, and lots of it. A gardener is always at war with weeds. There is so much God in gardening. Think about it, having a healthy and fruitful spiritual life takes work. There must be consistent watering of our hearts and spirits with prayer. We must fertilize our mind and soul with the sounds of worship. We hit the house of God so our lives can be strengthened by His Word and community. Get out of the routine and watch how quickly your spirit can become bitter or sour and heart callused and cold. Then, if the lack of spiritual discipline doesn’t get us, the weeds of sin begin growing. Jealousy drops seeds in our heart, lust gets in our eye, and within days, we’re inundated by the worldly weeds. Today’s challenge. As you work on your yard, remember your heart is a garden as well. Water, feed, and prune regularly!
I’m a noticer. It doesn’t matter where I’m at or what I’m doing, I’m observing. It’s one of my ways of learning. This particular day found me on an interstate I had not been on before. The landscape is lush with trees and rolling terrain. It’s here I notice an Amish farmer plowing his field. He’s standing on a plow tied to four oxen. I marvel as I witness old life in modern times. As I’m watching, I notice power lines above him, massive lines, maybe 50 feet tall. These lines aren’t carrying energy to homes, they’re transporting power to cities. They are just above him to the east. I also catch a glimpse of a home, I presume is his, because there are no power lines running to it. As the moment recedes into my rear-view mirror, my thoughts reflect on his life, he’s so close to so much power, yet chooses to live without it. What an example of some Christians. Jesus said, “you shall receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you (Acts 1:8), yet how many live without tapping into the power. How many plow through life with an old-world mentality, seeking peace, joy, and happiness in worldly treasures? We live with access to God’s power, yet often choose to live off the grid, trying to succeed without His life changing influence. How much power is just above us? Enough that would cause an entire city to say, “these are they that have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6), and enough to cause people to lay the sick in the street that the shadow of Simon Peter might bring healing (Acts 5:15). God’s power, it’s not a matter of if He has it, but if we will tap into it. We have a choice, plow on our own or pray for His power.
It all started early Monday morning. A thump on our window, and then another, and then another. . . and it has continued all week. What is it? One small yellow finch. I am assuming it’s the same one, surely there’s not another that wants to spend its entire day crashing its head into our sliding glass window. At this moment, as I am writing, I’m safe to say he (or she) is averaging a crash about every ten seconds. Occasionally, it stops, shakes itself, inspects its feathers, and begins again. It seems absurd, and I suppose at some point it will stop, but for now, “bird tv” is a part of our daily entertainment. We’ve scared it off a few times, but it returns, and continues its relentless attack on our glass. I would love to have a conversation with it about its actions and purpose, but obviously I don’t speak bird, and I’m not really sure it would accomplish anything. Reminds me of how we sometimes handle stress, anxiety, and worry. Like the bird, no matter how much sleep we lose, how much time we spend in a mental round-about, we just end up burning energy and wasting time, and accomplishing nothing. In Matthew 6:27 Jesus puts it bluntly when He says, “who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” What are we to do? We basically have three options. First, living like the yellow finch who is assaulting our window; spend your days stressing, worrying, using a lot of energy, and accomplishing nothing. Second, trust God. David gives us valuable wisdom in Proverbs 3:5 when he says, “trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” Finally, relax! There is not one thing that overwhelms God, and if He’s not overwhelmed, then give it your best effort to not let issues trouble you either.
Spring amazes me with its stunning spender of yellow, pink, purple and white colors. It’s the moment God brightens the earth with yet another masterpiece of His glorious beauty. Spring air, accompanied by rain, produces bright green hues everywhere which provides the perfect backdrop for His kaleidoscope of color. With sunlight making its way through the cloud covering, I stand in awe of the miraculous creation of color God makes for us. He thinks out every process of this majestic canvas and He does this simply for us to enjoy. Winter can be cold and barren, bitter and stagnant. And then, Spring, with its glorious colors, reminds us of His desire to make things new and fresh. Often Spring is a time when God starts something fresh and new in us. It’s a time of new beginnings. As you venture through this Spring, allow God to form something miraculous in your life. Take the time to take in the beauty around you. Let Spring remind us that we too are a canvas of God, and we have the potential to produce beauty and growth. Growth that can change the world for someone else needing hope. Before you know it, these incredible colors will be gone. The blooms will blow away and new growth will turn to leaves. So, enjoy Spring, the time for growth and new beginnings, and ask God to begin something new and beautiful in you!
An obvious fact. The less light the more darkness. Turn off the lights in a windowless room and darkness dominates. One of the fascinating details the gospel authors mention is as Jesus is dying on the cross the sky grew dark. When the earthly presence of God went out (“I am the light of the world.” John 8:12), darkness rushed in. It’s important to note what happened during those three hours, because I believe there is a spiritual principle. We wonder why there is such darkness in the earth today, may I suggest that God’s light, the church has become dimmer. While there are more mega-churches, there are fewer people attending than ever. In 1950 nearly 70% of Americans attended church regularly, in 2007 that number had dwindled to 18%, and reports are that nearly 1/3 of those who were faithful to church before COVID have not returned. Jim Cymbala, pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York City, says it is his belief that the actual number of faithful and active Christians in America is less than 5%. Not only did Jesus say that He was the light of the world, but that we, the followers of Christ, “were the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14). Why the darkness? Why the hate? Why such an aggression of immorality? Why does it seem no one has the answer for all that ills our world? As a pastor who trusts God’s Word, I believe we are seeing the effect of the absence of light. Jesus asked in Luke 18:8, “when the son of man comes, will He find faith,” and the author of Hebrews warns, “let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer.” Easter 2022. Make a decision to make God’s house a life priority.