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?
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.
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.