Thanksgiving. For some, it’s become, not a day about giving thanks, but the day that earmarks the beginning of Christmas shopping. Instead of taking the time to reflect on the incredible blessings and favor we have as Americans, it has become a frenzied day of greed and self-centeredness. While I recognize that our country nor our lives are perfect, we must admit that we are abundantly blessed. For most who are reading this article, we have a warm home, food in our cabinets and a car to drive. Even for those who have little or nothing, there are caring charities who attempt to provide for the basic needs; clothing, food and shelter. While we may not realize or appreciate it, even those who we would call poor are often better off than many in this world. That is why it grieves me when I see such a lack of thankfulness. In one of the most blessed countries of all times, I have been amazed and saddened by the anger, rioting and general discontent in people we’ve seen this year. When will we stop to count our blessings? When will we be satisfied with the abundance that we have? At what point will there be a pause, a reflection and a genuine heart of appreciation and spirit of gratitude? How about this week? It doesn’t have to be an “around the table” moment or a long prayer, but there should be a true spirit of thankfulness in our Thanksgiving. God is good and God has been good to us. Give thanks!
Ten years ago. It was 2009 and we were preparing to step into a new decade. We were celebrating the move out of Brooks School Elementary into our new home at 11616 E. 126th Street. No more setting up and tearing down. We were proud, thankful and grateful. All 70 of us. For the first time in our short history we had a home. We had 150 chairs. We could meet on Wednesday evenings, have choir practices and we actually had rooms for kids’ classes! We thought we had arrived. Now, as we close the decade, just 10 years later, I marvel at what God has done. From 70 people to over 300 who now call Life their home, we have witness God’s faithfulness as we have shared His gospel. We have seen God do amazing things. We close out 2019 with an expanded campus and a spirit of expectancy and excellence. As we prepare to step into a new decade it seems to be just as it was in 2010, a launching pad moment. We enter 2020 with 4K cameras and live broadcast that will take our services around the globe and new seating that will give us the ability to seat nearly 500 people. What will the next 10 years be like? God only knows. What is our responsibility. The same as it was as we stepped from 2009 to 2010. To pray. To keep seeking God with all of our hearts. To ask God to do it again, to bring another outpouring of His Spirit as He did in the book of Acts. Let’s trust Him to take us further than our greatest imagination both in our own lives and at Life.
Thank you, Jesus. Above all, we give thanks that the God that created all, robed himself in flesh. He came and dwelt among us, was crucified, resurrected and ascended into heaven creating a way that we could have eternal life. We give thanks for His love, mercy and grace. There is no sin that is too great and no place His grace and mercy cannot get to. There is always hope. We acknowledge and give thanks that God provides for us. He meets our needs of food, water, shelter and clothing. While we may not have everything we want, we are blessed with provision. Beyond meeting our needs, “He daily loads us with benefits,” as David says in Psalm 68. Many of our lives are filled with blessings and luxuries that makes life so much easier than many. We give thanks that God looks over us. As Jeremiah 29 says, “He knows the plans He has for us, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” While life is full of hardships and difficulties, we are blessed to have a God that knows our ways and goes through them with us. We look forward in expectation and thanks, knowing that if we obey His Word and trust His plan, we will share an eternal life with people of the ages, family and friends. Our future home is a land filled with mansions and streets of gold. It is a place filled with joy, happiness and worship. There is no more pain, sickness or death. No more sin and evil. It is where will meet Jesus again. Thank you, Jesus.
A person who performs a service willingly and without pay. It’s the definition of a volunteer, but actually describes so many people who make Life their home. Today, we honor those who make Life an amazing place to worship. They are the “seven men” of good character found in Acts 6. They serve without compensation, work in the shadows and often are under appreciated. Volunteers are the backbone, guts and glue of Life. They are single parents walking through difficult seasons. They’re young couples, some with young children, whose lives are filled with demands. They are seasoned adults who could relax and enjoy church. They are seniors who want the next generation to know and experience the powerful God they did. Its people who show up nearly every Saturday to pray for an anointing on everything we do; every service, every ministry and every person, covered in prayer. It’s worship teams, audio, video and lighting people, here early on Sunday mornings and in the middle of the week, making sure that the environment you experience in worship is the best. Its individuals serving in the nursery and toddler’s classes. Its teams creating incredible worship experiences for our kids’ classes. Its people who make FSM and Hyphen events work. Its gifted and talented people that share their abilities for the Kingdom. They do carpentry, paint, provide landscaping, plant flowers and help keep the place clean. Finally, it’s anyone who greets, smiles and makes every guest want to return. To everyone who serves, in any way, we honor you today. Without you, Life does not work. Thank you for blessing us with your gifts and talents.
One of the principles that the Bible teaches about God, is that He loves when we give thanks. In Psalm 136, David devotes an entire chapter to giving thanks unto the Lord. This month our goal is to do the same. Today, we say thanks to our Life family for the support of Life’s vision. Your commitment to the vision has created a wonderful place to worship and place where people feel safe as they discover God in a personal way. Your kindness to our family over the past year is so appreciated. As we walked through the difficult journey of losing Mary’s mother there were so many cards, text and kind gestures. We were absolutely shocked when we walked into the funeral home to find nearly half the flowers were from the Life family and friends. This past month we celebrated the marriage of our daughter, Risa. Again, the Life family was incredibly amazing as we celebrated her special day. We were so moved by your kindness and generosity of time and energy. Finally, thank you to everyone who sent cards, gifts, texted or simply spoke a word of encouragement during Pastoral Appreciation month. We are blessed to serve so many amazing families and people. People who serve unselfishly, are growing in Christ and many who have been walking through incredibly difficult times. We are thankful to call you a part of the Life family and thankful to be able to share life’s journey with you. Thank you for being a part of our life!
Each year Israel stopped and celebrated with three different festivals; Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacle. These festivals would last as long as a week. These were times to reflect on what God had done, reconnect with family and unite together with others in the family of God. This is why we have Month of the Family at Life. It’s our modern-day pause. We remember God, His Word and how vital His work on Calvary is to our lives. It’s the time when we reprioritize our life, making sure that our family is connected to God and each other. It is the time when we connect with others who believe as we do; those we worship with and do life with. This is why we take time to have special events; men’s, women’s and students’ nights and today’s chili cook-off. Pentecost was a celebration of harvest; it was a joyous time filled with music and dancing; a time of reflection and thankfulness. Today, our chili cook-off is much the same. It’s a time of thankfulness, a time when we celebrate our unity that comes because of our beliefs. It’s a time to laugh, connect and fight for bragging rights for the next year over who has the best chili, who is the best corn hole players and what couple is best at keeping a wheel barrel upright. It’s a time to laugh, make new friends and create lifelong memories. It’s a time for bonfires, roasting hotdogs and hayrides. Whether you’ve been with us for fifteen years or fifteen minutes, we invite you to be a part of the one of a kind Life’s Chili Cook-off.
Sitting on Jon’s desk is a plaque that gives the definition of a Father:
Fa.ther (fa’ther) n.
1. Protector, teacher and encourager
2 . Picks you up when you fall, brushes you off and lets you try again.
(See also: banker, hero, playmate, coach.)
Father’s Day. A day we set aside to recognize dad. For some of us we call them our hero’s, to others, our strength, our safe place, our protector, they can be our greatest listeners… they’re our biggest fans but to others, we may not be able to share the same sentiments. You may have a different story, one that is too painful to even think about, or maybe a father who’s been absent, with no history at all. Our dad’s, no matter the story, hold a place in our heart that is different than any other space our hearts can hold; good or bad, because a Father symbolizes someone who is defined as Protector, teacher and encourager. But can I say that the most amazing story of all time is of a “Father” that truly is and will always be what a Father should be and we have the privilege to call Him whatever it is that we need; counselor, Prince of peace, our comforter and our everlasting Father. The list goes on and on, filled with too much greatness to even be absorbed in a lifetime. His name is Jesus, the greatest man that’s ever lived. We get to call him our Father!
A volunteer, a person who performs a service willingly and without pay. Yesterday we saw it exemplified in an incredible way by our church at the Fishers Strawberry Festival. For no recognition for themselves or Life Connections, we had an unbelievable group of people who laid it out so we could bless a church that was victim to last week’s tornados in Dayton Ohio. While we can’t mention everyone, we must mention some. Hailey Whitener and her boyfriend who were simply everywhere doing whatever it took to serve. Mike and Amber Jaarda and their family, who took a morning shift in our drive thru, and ended up staying over because of the overwhelming crowds. Randy and Robin McGarr who showed up to do “whatever was needed,” and took us to another level throughout the day. Socrates and Azucena and their family made clean up such a success. Andrea Kopanski and Kaitlyn Groover who stood in the hot sun for hours with the Strawberry sign getting the attention of motorists. Maddie McDermott’s family, who doesn’t even attend Life, stepped up and blew us away with their servant hearts. The list could go on and on, so many servers, table preps, bounce house monitors and greeters. Simply put, you exemplified the heart of God. Thanks to Renee Clark, David and Keah Cuautle, Jeff Bocek, Gentry Hudson and our entire staff for all the behind the scenes work and for having the heart to say, “let’s do this for Dayton.” We couldn’t have done it without you. To everyone who volunteered, a heartfelt thank you for making a difference.
Let’s take just one typical moment in a child’s life; a bicycle crash. A dad’s response, “I’m sorry, let’s get a band-aid, you’ll need to be more careful next time.” A mom’s response, “oh honey, what have you done, come here, let me give you a hug, it’s okay let those tears flow, let’s get a Kleenex for those tears, let’s wash off that cut, let me get some medicine before I get a band aid, we need some cookies and milk to make it feel better.” A Godly mom; God’s gift to the world. If you are a woman, a mom, you are hard wired to be a manager, nurse, doctor, chauffer, Uber driver, cook, chef, maid, house cleaner, seamstress, instructor, tutor, janitor, gardener, decorator, activity coordinator, psychologist, sociologist and just about any other job you might think of. Godly moms are prayer warriors, prophets, pastors, and teachers with words like, “I pray you…, don’t make me tell you again and didn’t I tell you that would happen.” They give, not because they have too, but because that is the way God wired them. They are often the first one’s up in the morning and the last to bed at night. They care more than they are supposed to, they have an intuition that is laser like and hearts that are bigger than the Grand Canyon. Today we applaud the beautiful women that are a part of Life, whether single, hoping to be a mom, mom, grandmother or great–grandmother, you are a gift from God, uniquely made to make the world work. Happy Mother’s Day!
Today we celebrate 15 years of Life. From a garage sale and weekly Bible studies in our home, to the Goddard School, to Brooks School Elementary and now, to its current campus, on 126th, it’s been quite the journey. It’s surreal to think that Life has been a church for fifteen years. In so many ways March 7, 2004 seems like yesterday. That was the day we stepped into Brooks School Elementary for our first weekly service. We were naive, young and unexperienced. I was 40, Mary was 36, Gentry was seven and Risa five. That Sunday about forty of us joined together to worship and over the next five years we watched as the congregation grew. Sunday services were at Brooks School and Wednesday’s in our home. In the fall of 2007 we got the miraculous call from the Coffey family, and I heard the words I’ll never forget, “we want to donate five and a half acres to the church.” Plans began to form, construction began in 2008 and in 2009. It was during that time that Bill and Anita James saw the vision and jumped in during our construction phase. In April of 2009 we moved in and later that year we celebrated five years with Pastor Chester Mitchell from Ashburn, Virginia. Finally having a home, Life began to grow and new team members came on board. Willie and Ashley Travis and Erik and Brittany Poling soon made Life their home and suddenly Life began to minister in new dimensions. 2010 and 2011 brought musical groups, Royal Taylor and The Experience Band. It was our time with the Experience Band that we met Korey Elkins and a few years later he began to lead our worship. In 2014, we celebrated 10 years as a church and our personal 25 years of ministry. Rex Johnson came from Austin, Texas and challenged us to “follow the Spirit.” The last five years brought both tremendous challenges and changes, but through commitment to prayer, following after God’s leading and continuing growth that brought amazing people to help, we watched as God did miraculous things. The growth brought challenges to our Kids and Youth ministry and it became obvious that we needed to expand. With the vision of our Board of Directors, Don Baldwin, Tarren Cruz, Milford Hudson, Andy Purcell, Lance Russom and Don Starks we broke ground in the fall of 2017. As we celebrate 15 years today, we have nearly completed Phase Two. Where do we go from here? We cannot rest, God has given us more to do! “Church without Walls,” taking life to the world through live video, is coming soon and plans are already complete for Phase Three; an expanded lobby and nursery, a social gathering space with a small café and several large educational rooms. Beyond that, who knows where God will lead. But today we stop to give Him glory for all He has done and celebrate 15 incredible years of Life!
The year, and especially the past nine months, had seen more twist, turns, ups and downs than a roller-coaster. It was more than they could have ever imagined. The announcement of their engagement had filled their lives with celebration, travel, gifts and preparation for marriage. Nowhere in their engagement script was a pregnancy. They were virtuous and God-fearing people. Their family had taught them the law with passion and they loved God with all their heart. But a visit of an angel to Mary brought news beyond comprehension. She was stunned and speechless, filled with joy but at the same time feeling the sting of the overwhelming challenges. To be the one chosen to be overshadowed by the Spirit and bring God to earth was the greatest of honor. To explain it to her family and soon to be groom was nearly an impossible task. Joseph’s angelic dream brings some strength and hope to the moment, but still there are doubts. Those doubts would visit often; the thought of divorce would surface in his mind almost daily. Resolve moves into both of their hearts and they decide they will believe in the words from Heaven. That the pregnancy was supernatural and that God was truly growing inside of a teenager from Nazareth. Though they believed, others didn’t. There were endless questions from their parents. Friends strayed and foes judged. There are whispers, innuendo and downright rude gazes. That an angel visited a young couple from Nazareth with a prophetic word, and teenagers at that, was just too much. May we suggest that there was even mockery. There is an incredible moment when Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth; her baby leaps with joy inside her womb. There came flashes of hope when Joseph and Mary were alone and realized, it’s God in her womb. The end of the pregnancy brings yet another challenge. Herod has called for a tax, one that required families to return to the home of their birth. So, nine months pregnant, they begin a pilgrimage. It too is filled with challenges. Dangerous travel, poor weather and challenging terrain are all a part of the journey. Mary, days from birthing a child, must keep up with the caravan. For nearly two weeks, through rain, cold and wind they walk. Down mountain paths, across deserts and then a fifteen-mile ascent through rocky cliffs. When it seems as though it can’t get any more overbearing, it does. Bethlehem, a wide gap in the road on the journey to Jerusalem is their destination. They arrive in the small village only to find the family house already filled with relatives. No room in the house, they are relegated to the stable behind the house. Cold, damp, smelly; what place could be lowlier for the birth of any child, much less God in flesh. A stable, a place for animals now houses God. In the midst of all the hardship and difficulty, when no one could see the possibility, Joseph and Mary likely feeling hurt, lost and forgotten have no idea that the world changed. That night would be end of so much and the beginning of so much more. No one knew that in that moment the dateline would change from B.C. to A.D. No one knew that night that the sheep He laid among would never again have to die for the sins of a man. It was just a rough nine months for two obscure teenagers who believed the impossible could happen through them. Who could have imagined? Probably not Joseph and Mary. Whatever this year has held, whether hills and valleys, twist and turns you’ve walked through, know three things. First, the journey can be hard but you will make it. Second, regardless of how it looks in the moment, the impossible may be taking place in the midst of the most difficult situation. Finally, like Joseph and Mary, God has been with you, is with you and will always be with you. Christmas. The celebration of change!
Memorial Day. A day that we remember those who served and gave their lives for our freedom. Because of those who believed in the values of our country, for what it stands for, they fought and died that we might have liberty and freedom. We celebrate this weekend because they battled and struggled with enemies who opposed our beliefs. We don’t know most of their names and we can’t name many of the battles, but we can look back and celebrate their lives and victories that allow us to cookout, watch a race and make lots of memories. For there to be a memorial there has to be several components. There must be a cause, an adversary, a struggle or battle and finally there must be closure. In the closure we count our loses, remember the struggle and hopefully celebrate our victories. It is a time to honor, be thankful and remember the sacrifices. We are blessed to be Americans. We are blessed by those who served and died. May we never forget those who have and will continue to make America a great nation. God bless America and those who serve.
Over the past month I’ve taken notice that many retailers are returning to age old tradition of being closed on Thanksgiving. I’m glad to see this trend because over the past few years it has seemed that Thanksgiving was disappearing, being discarded by greed and materialism, the very opposite value that Thanksgiving is all about. In a time that is so filled with anger and hate I think it’s important that we take time to pause and re
flect on the many blessing we have as Americans and Christians; to say thank you, I’m grateful and I’m blessed.
If we are not careful we’ll miss the fact that we are surrounded by so many awesome people and cultures who call Life their home. If we don’t stop or pause, we’ll miss something very special that is right in front of us. One of the great pleasures we all get to share in is the many cultures that make Life their home, our kids get to interact with people from the nations of Pakistan, Indonesia, Congo, Mexico and Guatemala just to name a few. Though I am a simple hamburger and fries or pizza guy, Mary and I been afforded to have cultural dinners from Pakistan and Indonesia and participate in a Pakistani wedding and let me say, if you haven’t been to a Pakistani wedding, you have missed something unique. There are so many wonderful stories here at Life and if we don’t slow down, we’ll miss them. Stories like the one of Scott Gascho carrying extra clothes in his car for 14 years so that if Keri ever decided to be baptized, she would have fresh clothes to wear afterwards. Now that is faith! Stories about our wonderful heritage, like the one we heard from Phil Yadon earlier in the year about the faith and miracles that was a part of his early life. I was so inspired by his testimony, my faith for miracles went to a new level for this generation. Stories about the prayers of Jim Coffey’s mom while he was a kid. Imagine neighbors setting out on their porches listening to her prayers as they filled the valley, waiting to hear their name as she called out each family.
May I encourage you to stop this month, put the brakes on all the things of life that you feel have to get done and get to know some of the great people who worship with you, who are a part of your church family. If we don’t, we’ll miss stories about how people met and married, how they came to their walk with God and stories about how God did the miraculous in their life. We’ll miss stories that will encourage our faith, strengthen our resolve and we’ll miss the opportunity to be blessed with new friends and relationships. Make a plan in November to hit the pause button. If you will, you’ll be more thankful, grateful and blessed this Thanksgiving.