Not every season unfolds the way we might want it to. If we could choreograph our life there would be little pain, struggle, or difficulties. If we plotted our own lives, we would make sure that it was void of loneliness, fear, and failure. After 35 years in ministry, 15 in higher education and 20 as a pastor, I’m in transition, a new chapter of life. Gone are the deadlines, daily duties, and weekly messages. The new season is requiring that I learn how to rest and relax, take care of a grandson, and spend time exploring what my future might look like. To be honest, I’m not enjoying it. The rest and relaxation feels lazy and exploring the future is like looking for a needle in a haystack. As of now, I’ve decided to embrace my time with my grandson, Carter. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do realize that he has a lot more time in the future than I do. So, while it may not seem like the greatest challenge, I’m embracing my time with him with passion. While I might prefer to be writing sermons, it could be more important that I’m reading stories with inflection, sound effects, and silliness to a little boy. Truthfully, I’d rather be preparing for a new study series, but instead I find myself setting at a keyboard teaching Carter to play Mary had a Little Lamb and let him bang keys at every octave. I could go on, but you get the point. Why am I embracing the season with vigor? Two reasons. First, it’s what God has put in front of me, and I’ve always lived with the principle that whatever God gives me to do, I’ll do it with passion and excellence. Second, I embrace the moment because God knows better than I. Investing in Carter may be more important than I realize, I may be developing the next great author, speaker, or musician. Too many miss great opportunities because they view them as too small, but God said, “he who is faithful with the small things will be faithful with much.” It is important we realize that our lives are filled with ebb and flow, not every moment will be in the spotlight, nor will every moment be in the dark, it takes both to have a full life. Moses’ experienced three seasons in his life. The first was exciting and full of possibility, the last was filled with incredible successes. Moses’ most important moment was the middle season, the one that felt like failure, futility, and was filled with loneliness. It was there, in the desert, where Moses learned how to navigate the land, survive the wilderness, and manage people. Though he likely detested the season, he embraced it, and experienced a burning bush and received his ultimate calling. Difficult seasons often feel pointless and wasteful, and walking through them, we don’t view them as critically important to our lives. What are you walking through? While it may be overwhelming, painful, or confusing, it may be the very season that jettisons you into an inconceivable opportunity. Embrace the moment!
Day one of 2023. A new beginning of sorts. A clean slate. A fresh piece of paper. The start of a new chapter. For some reason as this year opened, I reflected on one of the books by my favorite author, Bill Watterson. The books title is It’s a Magical World and it is a collection of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes comics. On the cover there is a fresh blanket of snow and Calvin and Hobbes have a large toboggan and big smiles on their faces. They are out to seize the day, enjoy the snow, and make new memories. Their expressions show no worry about issues of the day, only the pure excitement about what they are about to experience. For whatever reason my spirit resonated with the cover and how to approach 2023. While we could focus on the ills of society, dwell on the ugly in our world, or the problems in our marriage or family, today is an opportunity to change our focus. I think why I enjoy Calvin and Hobbes comic strips so much is because they make each day a new adventure. Rarely is he overwhelmed by the events of the day, instead he charges into each new day with childlike excitement. His imagination is filled with possibilities and his plans for the day are not dictated by the circumstances of his world. He is going to explore, create, and enjoy the day. Calvin is not the first to have this idea, in the Bible David said, this is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24). David suggests that it’s important how we frame each day. We can meander into a day with fear and anxiety, or march into it with zeal and excitement. Calvin and David both suggest the latter and so do I. 2023 is our next chapter to write. Depending on your age, you may have many chapters still to write, or for some, there may just be a few remaining. Regardless, it is a new chapter. The good news we get to choose what goes on the page and how we approach each day will determine the chapters content. Live today filled with expectation, faith, and zeal. Look for possibility. Create energy, laughter, and fun. Daily use the 126 variations of Crayola colors, not a pencil. Tough days will come but let them be a page in the chapter, not the storyline. The first page of It’s a Magical World has Calvin and Hobbes sitting on the toboggan at the top of a hill, Calvin looks at Hobbes and says, “it’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy. . . let’s go exploring! May 2023 be filled with faith, possibility, laughter, and all the excitement that God has planned for you. Go exploring!
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.
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.
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.
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!
“God is in This Story,” a brand-new song by Katy Nichole and Big Daddy Weave, if you haven’t heard it yet, cue it up. In essence the song says even though God doesn’t give us all the details, He is in the details. There is so much truth there. God gives Noah the plans to build an ark but not all the details of how the future would unfold. Though Noah may have felt abandoned, God was in the details and with him throughout the journey. Moses experienced God in a miraculous way at a burning bush, but once again, God doesn’t give Moses every detail. But as the pages of Moses’ life turned, God was with Him in every moment. David is anointed king in front of his brothers, but God gives him little, if any details, to the twist and turns that will be involved in His future. When David says, “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,” he is letting us know that though there are difficult times, God is in the details. Jeremiah says, “God knows the plans He has for us,” and though He knows our journey, rarely does he give us the full description. Why? Because if he gave us every detail it would overwhelm us. We would succumb to fear and anxiety and run from His design and purpose. So, in His great wisdom, He gives us bits and pieces, day by day, just enough so that we will have the courage to take the next step. This He knows, if we will keep walking, He can take us places far beyond our imagination and natural ability. Discouraged? Overwhelmed? Broken? Fearful? Take heart. God is in your details. God is in your story!
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.
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.
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.
Memorial Day. Its purpose wasn’t for people to picnic and party, but to pause and reflect on who we are, where we came from, and how it happened. Those reflections are an assortment of good and bad events. We remember those who died for our freedom and celebrate the liberties that makes this a great country. It’s not a unique celebration, in fact, it’s one that has its foundation in the Bible. Joshua’s book gives us insight into a moment when God opens the Jordon River and Israel walks through it on dry ground. It’s a repeat of what Moses and their ancestry had experienced forty years earlier. As the last man walks out of the dry riverbed Joshua orders the leaders of each tribe to go back into the river and get one large stone. After the stones are gathered, they are instructed to stack them in a fashion that forms a memorial. Why? So that generations later, after this miraculous moment is but a shadow, they will remember what God had done. I’m saddened by what has happened to many of the memorials in our country over the past few years, not because I glory in the abuse or condone the actions of men, but because without those memorials we won’t remember our past. Today we’re not able to take our children to memorials of past failures and teach them about our nation’s mistakes. When memorials are torn down societies tends to repeat their actions because they have no reminder of the past. Why did Israel turn away from God in Judges, just one book later? Could it be because someone forgot to protect the memorials, forgot to take their children to them, and forgot to teach them about God’s miraculously ability to deliver? I encourage you to build memorials in your family. Remind them often of how great God is and what an important role he has played in your successes.
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.
The Triumphal Entry. It wasn’t an event; it was a statement. It was premeditated and calculated. Jesus knew exactly what He was doing. He knew His friends and foes. He knew what the day, Palm Sunday, would hold and He knew what the week would hold. Riding into Jerusalem on a colt was no accident, it was a declaration; to every Pharisee and religious leader Jesus was saying, I am in control. To every dark and demonic Spirit, He’s saying I am not afraid. It’s not a statement for the week, but a proclamation for eternity. The week would start with a Triumphal Entry and crowds crying, “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” and would end with crowds crying “crucify Him.” He doesn’t become enamored by the accolades nor discouraged by the jeers. He knew the moment was bigger than a parade or a cross, this was about who controls eternity. It’s about who would have power over death, hell, and the grave. It’s about sickness having dominance and darkness dominating the world. When the week comes to an end and He says, “it is finished,” He is not talking about His life, but the question of who was in control. As He breathes His last breath, He knows I am forever in control of eternity. Sin, sickness, disease, and death are now powerless. Satan, his schemes, and plans are forever thwarted. All things are subject to Him. The Triumphal Entry was an everlasting statement that said, I control everything, including my death. A good thing to know. Whether it’s in a court room or hospital room. Whether life or death. Jesus has triumphed and your life is safely in His hands.
An oil change. It’s a necessary part of owning a car. It has to happen about every three to five thousand miles. Why? Because as good as the oil is, it breaks down. What was originally strong, clean, and pure, over time becomes weak and dirty. Refuse to change the oil and eventually your car becomes sluggish and breaks down. Change the oil and you will notice that it has fresh power, renewed energy, and better gas mileage. You may have the finest car, equipped with every feature, and all the luxuries, but if the oil doesn’t get changed, it quickly becomes worthless. Fresh oil is a must! What is true of our car is true of our spiritual life. It doesn’t matter how long we have been in church, how well we look, or how much knowledge we may have of scripture, without a fresh touch of God’s spirit we will become sluggish, get weary, and break down. Are you lacking spiritual energy? When is the last time a touch of God’s Spirit has overwhelmed you or you got lost in God’s presence? When’s the last time you went to your knees in prayer and couldn’t leave? If it’s been a while, could it be that you need an invigorating anointing? Know this, your world saps your energy and steals your spiritual passion, and a fresh anointing is a must. David said in Psalm 92:10, “. . .I have been anointed with fresh oil.” What David understood was, that fighting giants, defeating adversaries, and living a God led life spends energy and wears down the soul. His solution to the daily grind? A fresh anointing of oil. Feeling weary? Lacking energy? Ask God for an oil change, for Him to send an energizing oil over your heart, soul, and life.
The Underdog. In last year’s March Madness, it was Oral Robert University, this year it is St. Peter’s. They come out of nowhere, usually a small college that no one has heard of, and though they have been invited to the event, they’re not supposed to win, but they do. And once they win, especially when your team has lost, the crowd jumps on their bandwagon. Everyone likes to see David beat Goliath. Somewhere along the line some self-righteous pharisee turned God into Thor, a God that is just waiting to hammer people with judgement when they fail. If you’re not blessed, it’s because you are not pleasing God. If you are going through difficult times, it’s because God is against you. When the woman was caught in adultery, the “rule” people were screaming crucify her, but Jesus’ jumps on her bandwagon. Rocks drops, screams of judgement go silent, and Jesus is on his knees saying, “neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” Paul, struggling with his inadequacies, ask God to remove his thorn, instead God says, it okay if you’re broken, my grace is sufficient. Wherever you turn in the Bible, you see God rooting for broken people. Religion says cross every “t,” and dot every “i,” and then you are good enough, but Jesus throws party’s when broken people simply repent. Feeling like you don’t belong? Feel like you’re not good enough? Maybe you feel like you failed too many times. Know this, every time you have a win, every time you turn to Him, God jumps on your bandwagon. He is for you!
68 Teams. Four regions. In each, teams are ranked by computers and a handful of “in the know” people. Teams with ones and twos are expected to be there at the end of the tournament, 15 and 16’s are expected to make an early exit; just pebbles for the Goliath’s on the road to the Final Four. Except for one problem. Occasionally, a pebble forgets the ranking assigned by the professionals, and plays with a fire that can’t be defined by statistics. Instead of folding, they define themselves. It only happens a handful of times, but after a mind-blowing victory, when a “David conquers a Goliath,” you hear something like this, “no one gave us a chance, but we knew in our hearts we could do it.” We live in a culture that is label driven, and too many allow others to define who they are. Too often people are defined by the clothes they wear, the people they associate with, or the letters after their name. Yet, like a 15 and 16 seeded team, there are some who rip off their labels and define themselves in God. David was called too young, unproven, and unreliable, all which may have been true, but he had something that could not be measured. His family, peers and experts measured him by the world’s metrics, but David measured himself by something no one else could see, his God factor. He knew what God had done for Him and what God had called him to do. When that kind of faith is in place it doesn’t really matter the labels put on you. To someone today, do the same as David or a low seeded team, rip off the label and be who God called you to be!
And just like that, it happened. The crowd was gone. In early January you would have thought the entire town of Noblesville had joined our health club. Whether it was seven in the morning or seven at night, the place was packed. February comes and the crowds were still steady. There was determination on people’s faces; they were going to get fit and lose weight. But as it often does, resolve and resolution fade into routine and old habits. Now it’s the committed. Those who show up day in and day out; those who are dedicated to making a change. This isn’t something new. Paul called out the Galatians, saying “you were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?” It’s human nature to fade, to allow obstacles to overwhelm us and discouragements to defeat us. What is the difference between those who fade and those who fight? Often it comes down to just one thing, determination. We are awestruck by Paul’s incredible successes but realize Paul was given many opportunities to quit instead of continuing. Stoned, beaten, persecuted, misunderstood, shipwrecked, and jailed, all opportunities to quit. In 2 Corinthians 3:1 we see his resolve when we read, “I determined this for my own sake, that I would not come to you in sorrow again.” Paul went through bad times, often felt like a failure, and had seasons where so many misunderstood and opposed his teaching, yet he was determined. I will not quit. I will not be defeated. I will not give up. His determination, his passion and his vision pushed him past his problems and pain. How many churches would not have been established? How many books would not have been written? More importantly, how many lives would not know Jesus? When times are tough, don’t quit! Pray harder, fast longer, and be determined to finish what God has called you to do.
Our world seems to be giving us every opportunity to be scared, to live in fear. Many did, and some still, live in fear as COVID grips the globe. Anyone else race to the store to buy water and toilet paper when COVID derailed our lives? Ever get a call from the doctor’s office saying, “we need to run some test,” and where does our mind go? Often fear fills our mind and instantly we imagine the worst possible scenario. As war breaks out in Europe, for the first time, we have the ability to watch as a nation is being destroyed. In addition, there is a fear that at any moment we could wake up to the news that our country has been impacted by nuclear weaponry. What if I told you that fear is part of God’s design? That without fear we wouldn’t have the wisdom to avoid dangerous situations. Fear often protects us, but when fear gets out of control, it is sin. What fear should do is give us an opportunity to lean in and trust God. Jesus gives us a great illustration of what to do when facing fear in Matthew 14. We find Jesus’ disciples in the midst of a storm; one he had sent them into. As waves crash, lightening flashes, and disciples are panicking, Jesus appears. Suddenly everything changes for one disciple, Simon Peter. His focus moves from fear to faith, and in an instant, he is no longer fixated on the storm, but the God of the storm. Did the storm stop? Did the waves calm? Did the lightening cease? No, but Simon Peter’s focus changed and even though we often concentrate on him sinking, the truth is he ended up where everyone needs to end up when storms come. . . in the never-failing arms and safety of Jesus.