I stared in astonishment. Three branches cut from a tree; no longer attached to their life source. Two branches were in flowerpots, the third, nailed to the other two to form an arch. No big deal, except for one thing, they were still producing blooms. No longer getting any nutrients or water, they were totally detached from their life source, yet they bloomed. As I reflected on the branches my mind drifted to the possibility that Christians may be doing the same thing in the midst of COVID-19. We can put off the appearance of being alive, but in reality, be disconnected from the life source. Know this, Jesus is the source of life for you and your family. Want proof? Lazarus is laying in a tomb and Jesus is trying to build hope in Mary. At one-point Jesus looks at Mary and says, “I AM the resurrection and the life.” Struggling to believe, Jesus takes Mary and her friends to the tomb where Lazarus lays, and with three words, “Lazarus, come forth,” demonstrates that He is the source of Life. I’m afraid that in this time of pandemic many have drifted away from the source of Life. We look alive, can say the right things but we’ve detached ourselves from God. Bibles lay dormant with dust, prayerlessness has become the daily norm and the atmosphere of our homes are filled with more of this world’s movies, music and media than anything spiritual. Though we’re without excuse, we skip out on Midweek Services and catch just enough of the Sunday service to say we watched if anyone asked. Carnality has replaced Christianity. Is there hope? Yes! Unlike the trees that will eventually drop their blooms and dry out, we can confess that we’re weak and have walked away and God will reattach us. Romans 11:23 says when someone turns back to God, that “God is able to graft them in again.” Isn’t that what happened to the prodigal son? He had got detached from his father, lost all he had and nearly died, but in his lowest moment realized, my dad will take me back. Are you away from God? Have you not only isolated from society but from God? You may think you alive, but it’s just a matter of time until you will feel the effects of being detached. I encourage you, seek God, return to righteousness and let God bring you back to life.
If I were with Jesus and were to have been writing a journal, my entry today would have gone something like this. Today was an amazing day. We celebrated with Jesus as He made His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. I feel like this is the beginning of something big. Only kings are celebrated like we celebrated today. The people lined the streets, coats and palm branches were laid in front of Him and more palm branches waved over us as we entered Jerusalem. The crowd sounded like a roaring river saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.” I can’t wait to see what this week holds. Little did they know, but God did. As He rode in on the colt that day, He knew He was just five days away from a kangaroo court, a scourging and a wooden cross. They never saw it coming on the day of that joyous Triumphal Entry. Five days later exuberant disciples are filled with horror, overwhelmed, dismayed and fearful as events that were beyond their imagination are taking place. Emmanuel, God with us, is hanging and dying, the creator being destroyed by His creation. That day, they didn’t think life could ever get any worse, or that there would ever be hope again. Life had come crashing down, dreams were dashed, and hearts broken. It was good while it lasted, but this was the end, except God knew, this was not the ending but the beginning. Just as He knew that the cross was coming on the day of the Triumphal Entry, He knew the Resurrection was coming in three days. I say this in light of what we are living through today. While we have been caught off guard, God hasn’t. He knew that this storm was coming, that COVID-19 would change our lives, but He’s not overwhelmed. Not only did He know when it was coming, He knows when it will end. He sends the disciples into the night knowing the storm would come, but shows up just in time, calms the storm and gives greater revelation to His disciples of His power. Daniel 2:21 says, “It is He who changes the times and the epochs (seasons).” In other words, God’s got this. Our current battle with COVID-19 reminds me so much of what it must have felt like at that first Easter. There was so much ebb and flow, so much fear and uncertainty, but as then, so now, God is always in control. He has always been, and He will always be. Trust Him when it doesn’t make sense.
This is not the first time a people or nation has stood at a place of uncertainty. The Children of Israel stood at a Red Sea in fear, enemies behind them and water in front of them, but God was with them and brought them through. Elijah’s servant was overwhelmed when he stepped out of his house to see hills filled with enemies, but the man of God calmed his fears by praying that God would give his servant a new vision. With a new perspective Elijah’s servant sees differently, a host of angels surround him, and though he doesn’t know how, he knows that God is with them. We must hold on to three important principles when we walk through times that feel uncertain. First, know that the God who has brought us to this point can bring us through times of crisis. Second, have a God view. Like Elijah’s servant, we can become enamored with what appears to be. News programs, social media and pandemonium creates very overwhelming pictures, but those with a God faith understands there is another outlook, the God view. Finally, how we view difficult moments is critically important. Moses sends twelve spies to inspect the Promised Land, upon their return, two reports surface. 10 spies, the majority, only saw impossibilities and brought fear. Two spies saw with right perspective and spoke possibility. Seeing correctly is critical. As we navigate this current crisis, choose to have faith, trust God and speak hope. Live with this mindset; that when uncertainty comes, that you will turn to the one thing that is certain, the power and possibility of God.
I recently read a sign that said, “Don’t stumble over things that are behind you.” Obviously, it was not referring to physically stumbling, but mentally or emotionally stumbling over something in the past. Looking through a physical perspective, there are only two ways we stumble over things behind us. First, we stumble when we turn around and go back to obstacles we have overcame. Second, we stumble because there might be someone or something that causes us to be afraid or have anxiety, and being overwhelmed, we begin backing up, forgetting what was behind us. Building on these physical principles, I suggest this is why we stumble spiritually. We go back to what God brought us from. We forget how broken, abused and empty we were. We turn back to what once again looks enticing, forgetting how empty it left us. We forget that God is with us and God is for us, and overwhelmed in the moment we think, I can’t do this. Secondly, we stumble because Satan uses fear and intimidation against us. We come against a big problem, people who hurt us or we are reminded of who we were before Jesus came into our life, and we tend to back up. We forget that greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world. We forget that we are equipped with the armor of God and the gifts of the Spirit, so we retreat. My words today come from Joshua who says, “be strong and courageous!” From Paul who said, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” Tempted to quit, don’t stumble, stand and see the salvation of the Lord. He is for you!
Being missional is an important part of any successful church. It’s all a part of the “go” found in Matthew 28:19. Being a mission minded church involves many tangents. We have some who serve families with meals or gift cards when there is sickness or hardship. We have those who go on short trips and help with needs in third world countries while others are making it their life’s purpose to share the gospel of Jesus. There is a Men’s group, called Hope, that helps widows, divorced and single women with answers and assistance with home and car issues. Even Life’s video ministry, is a part of missions, taking Life services to homes, hospitals and nursing homes across the U.S. and the world. We’re always looking for additional volunteers. If you can help with meals, see Julie Robinson. Want to help sponsor our two full time missionaries, Joe and Cassandra Landaw or Charity Yadon, or help with one of our short-term missionaries like Chad Yadon, simply mark it on your check or giving envelope. If you’re a man and want to assist with Hope, see Kendera Starks. Finally, were bringing on a new focus. First Sunday’s, Family Sunday is now also going to be Mission’s Sunday. To make it work we’re asking two things. First, bring an offering for missions, mark it on your giving envelope. Second, help us support the local food pantry here in Fishers. They need the following items: Peanut Butter, Jelly, sugar, flour, oil, canned meats, Hamburger Helper, canned fruit, applesauce, juices and snacks. On first Sunday’s there will be a donation container in the lobby, simply drop in your food items and we will get them to the food pantry. Get involved and get your “go” on!
Yesterday marked 50 years since Apollo 11 landed on the moon. It was a culmination of dreams, imagination, will-power and hard work. Were there cynics and skeptics? Yes, but a simple belief, backed by dedication and commitment brought about one of the most amazing events in all of history. While most will remember Neil Armstrong’s quote, “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” the quote that rings powerful in my mind is a lesser known quote. Armstrong said this, “I believe every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine.” God has given each of us an opportunity to dream, imagine and believe. He has equipped us with the faith “that all things are possible to those who believe,” and when we walk in His will and purpose, we can accomplish anything. A shepherd becomes a king, a farmer a prophet, and fishermen become apostles. Sitting in a field David doesn’t know where life will take him, but I bet he was imagining. Amos may be tending sheep, but somewhere in his heart he senses a passion to call his people back to God. A group of fishermen may have seemed destined only for fishing, but inside of them God had put an unquenchable fire. How about you? Is there a dream inside of you? A Word you’ve heard from God? Dream, imagine, pray and prepare. Leaders and visionaries are often alone and face more attack than you can imagine. Push against those who lack imagination and vision and press in to your destiny. There is no telling where it may lead!
Lost. It’s not an intentional destination. No one makes plans to get lost; it just happens. One wrong turn produces another and before we know it, we have no idea where we are. Often, especially if you are a male, the words, “I’m lost” are hard to say. We prefer a phrase like, “were just a little off course.” Whatever the choice of words, whether lost or a little off course, it is an admission that we have made a series of mistakes. The reality is that until we admit, “we’re lost” we will continue to meander aimlessly. The simple confession, “I am lost changes everything.” It’s only once we’ve admitted were lost, the journey to “found” begins. It’s then we’re willing to ask for help. It’s then we begin to retrace our steps to find our error. Its then we are willing to rely on others. It’s then that we carefully, step by step, try to get back to a safe and familiar place. No one intentionally gets “lost” in life. It just happens. How did the prodigal get to the pig pen? One bad moment, compounded by a poor decision, throw in a moral lapse, some bad company, and suddenly he finds himself in a place that is so unfamiliar, and a place he never intended to be. Fortunately, it takes just one good decision to change everything. Sitting in a pig pen was the moment the prodigal came to the realization, “I am lost.” It was the moment that changed everything. One moment stench, the next moment hope. A few more steps and his imagination began to see possibility. A few steps more and he sees home. Can I encourage you if you’re lost today? You’re not that far from home. Just one admission.