Monday was a glorious day. In fact, it’s been a pretty good month. Snow, snow and more snow. As I write, over a foot of snow is still on the ground. There are great spiritual lessons in snow. First, snow has no prejudice. It falls everywhere and on everyone. Doesn’t matter your economic, religious or social status. Snow falls. Second, snow covers everything. It covers average and beautiful landscaped yards. Snow covers sidewalks and streets, leaves that weren’t raked and branches that have fallen. Snow finds every knuck and covers every cranny. Finally, the obvious, snow makes everything white. Gray, green, brown, regardless the color, snow turns it white. Isaiah says, “though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow.” What an amazing word picture when we put into context what a snow does. Jesus’ blood, like snow, has no prejudice. It covers everyone. No bias, no discrimination. Second, like snow, Jesus’ blood covers everything, no issue is beyond his blood. Whether a lie, a moral failure or something worse, Jesus’s blood covers it. Finally, Jesus’ red blood turns our sins white. We become justified and clean. He gives us a clean slate. His blood takes our sins and makes them as distant as the east is from the west. The old song says, thank God for the blood, thank God for the blood, it washes white as snow. I’m glad I can live in the power of His work and not in my futile efforts to save myself. Maybe that’s why I love snow so much, because it reminds me that His blood makes my life look like a fresh snow.
This past week in Tampa, Mary and I were enjoying a balcony breakfast of fruit and oatmeal. As we were eating, I threw three or four small blueberries off the balcony onto the parking lot below. I had hoped that a few of the birds might swoop down and snatch them up, but after a few minutes, nothing had happened, and we had kind of forgot about them. Suddenly, without warning birds came from everywhere. We’re not talking three or four birds, but 20 or 25 birds. My immediate thought was wow! Those three or four berries caused this? I was quite proud. It was a few seconds later that I realized it wasn’t my three or four berries, it was bread from above. Someone above us was throwing handfuls of bread off their balcony, and the birds weren’t drawn to my berries, but to the bread from above. What a moment of truth! Often, we feel like our work accomplishes so much; that our efforts, talents and skills make all the difference when actually, it’s His bread from above. God says cast the nets on the other side of the boat, we simply obey, and Jesus nearly sinks our boats with blessings. It’s not our fishing ability, but His blessing. Paul says it well when he says, “some plant, others water, but it is God that gives the increase.” What Paul was telling us is what we experienced that morning at breakfast. The possibility and the power is in God. That it is God that makes the difference. That God loves to take our empty vessels and small lunches and fill them and multiply them. The psalmist understood this when he said, “if it had not been for the Lord who was on our side.” God, let us regularly be reminded that it is because you are with us and for us that we are blessed and favored.
John 4 is where we find Jesus setting his sights on helping a fragile and apprehensive Samaritan woman. The story opens as Jesus arrives at Jacob’s well, alone. He has sent His disciples to get bread. The setting is important, because if he isn’t alone, He likely doesn’t have a chance to have a conversation with the woman. It’s not that the woman isn’t broken, she is. It’s just that she is jaded and skeptical because of the bruises of life. She’s been hurt by five different husbands and the man that’s now a part of her life isn’t her husband. As the conversation begins, Jesus faces an emotional wall that is as high and thick as a prison wall. Trying to break through the icy stare, Jesus asks for water. He is met with a why? Why are you, a Jew, asking me, a Samaritan for a glass of water. Don’t you know your type doesn’t talk to people like me. When Jesus offers her water she skeptically asks, how are you going to give me water, you have nothing to draw with. When Jesus explains it’s spiritual water, she judgingly questions, are you greater than our father Jacob? Every attempt Jesus makes to help her is met with a jaded and calloused response. Jesus conversation with the Samaritan woman reminds me of the difficulty we run into when we try to share the good news; the news that Jesus can bless and impact their life. It’s met with the same skepticism and jaded response. Why? They’ been hurt and they don’t trust. How do we overcome their pain? The same way Jesus did. Keep loving, showing compassion and offering mercy. Hopefully, at some moment, the walls crack, the heart softens, and the love of God comes pouring over their heart like a spring shower.
Jeremiah 29:11 God says, “for I know the plans I have for you… plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” If we take this verse literally, God has a specific plan for our life, and it is for good and is to give us a future that is filled with hope. If God has a plan for us, what hinders it from coming to pass? Satan, people, situations or circumstances? No. The biggest issue impeding God’s plan from happening in our life is us. Jesus lets us know His ultimate goal for all humanity in Luke 19:10 when he said, “I came to seek and save those who are lost.” That’s it. That’s the reason He robed himself in flesh, lived with the humanity He created, died on a cross, resurrected and ascended into heaven, so that everyone can be saved. But is that it? Is that His only plan for our lives? No, I believe God has a specific plan for each of us, but how? It begins by getting in alignment with God’s Spirit, getting in the flow of His purpose. For that to happen it requires that we have a hunger for His will to be accomplished in our life. It requires continually humbling, submitting and yielding to His leadership. It means being led by the Spirit and walking in the Spirit. It means as John said in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Regularly, daily, we must pray that prayer. God let Your plans, Your will increase and let mine decrease. Help me to yield my plans, ideas and concepts to yours. What awaits? Joy. Happiness. Calm. Diminishing fear and anxiety. A peace that passes all understanding. Get in the flow. Get in alignment with His Spirit and His plan. It will be life changing.
What do we do when there is a forecast of an impending snowstorm? We head to the grocery store. We load up on bread, milk, eggs and other essentials. We top off the car with fuel, head home with a trunk full of groceries, prepared for the storm. Wake up to a forecast that says rain and we grab a jacket and an umbrella. Being prepared is vital to surviving a storm, whether rain, snow or the storms of life. Why fast? Because storms are coming. It’s not a maybe or possibility, it’s not the question of if, but when will the storms hit. This year there will be unexpected job losses, sickness, emotional hurt, life disappointments and difficulties we don’t anticipate. Knowing storms are in the future, what do we do? We prepare. We pray. We fast. We make our relationship with God a priority. That’s how we prepare spiritually. Jesus went into the wilderness, full of the Spirit, but comes out in the power of the Spirit. What happened in the wilderness? He was tempted. He fasted. He came out ready for all the challenges lie ahead. Paul was converted on the Damascus Road, but before he ever preached a message, God sent him to an Arabian desert. What happened in the desert? He prayed and fasted. He was being prepared for the impending storms; shipwrecks, stonings, beatings, persecution and jail, all storms that lay in front of Paul. How did he survive? Spiritual preparation. What does 2021 hold? God only knows, but one thing I do know, there will be storms. Are you preparing? How we prepare today will determine how we handle the storms and if we will survive. Fast today because storms are coming.
It’s over! Now that it is, it’s important that we take a final look back and make some assessments. There’s been some casualties, some losses but more than anything, change. The way we live life is different. We wear mask. We avoid contact with others. We work from home. We do carryout. The list goes on and on. The way we do church is different too. We’ve sacrificed a lot, probably too much. No hugs. Very little expressive worship. Sermons end and we go home. Some have found it convenient to stay home. The trip that didn’t seem so long, now is, and we watch, if it is convenient. For others, what once was important doesn’t seem as important now, the Spirit outpouring and doctrine became irrelevant, so they attend a “nice” church. Some can pass people in the isle at the grocery store, Target or even set in restaurants, but church, even with social spacing, is too dangerous of a place to attend. We’ve given up a lot. But of all the things we’ve given up, one of the most dangerous is the altar. It’s what the adversary is always after, our altar. So much happens at an altar. We rejoice, repent, find encouragement, get deliverance and worship at altars. We are broken, find healing and praise together at the altar. The miraculous happens at the altar. The Spirit falls in an altar. We are refreshed, gain faith, are convicted and make new commitments at altars. But in 2020 we didn’t have altar services. They went dormant. A casualty of COVID. The 2021 challenge? Like Jacob, get back to Bethel, the house of God. Like Elijah, restore your commitment to building back up the altar. The altar. The success of your life and family depends on it
Now what? Today the presents have been opened and life returns to normal. It’s back to nine to five and real life. So it was after Jesus’ miraculous birth. It’s been days, weeks or months since the glorious entrance of God in flesh, Jesus, into the world. The shepherds have visited the stable. Mary and Joseph have taken Jesus to the temple where they are met with unexpected prophecies about Jesus’ future by Simeon and Anna. The Magi have traveled from a far with gifts and visited his home. But now what? I would love to say the shepherds became evangelist, spreading the good news and the Magi became the first missionaries, establishing great works as they head back East. But only heaven and time will tell. Life, for all we know, went back to normal. The only thing we know is that Jesus grew. We get a glimpse of his growth when they visit the temple when Jesus is twelve. Mary and Joseph go to a Feast in Jerusalem, and after the celebration, begin the journey home when they realize they had left him behind. Upon returning, they find him in the Temple mesmerizing the teachers of the scripture. Beyond that, nothing. Silence. Stillness. The gift went dormant. What do we do when God goes silent? When the seed has been planted but we have to wait. We do what Mary did. Luke 2:51 says, Mary treasured all these things in her heart. When God goes silent and life goes back to normal, treasure what you have experienced and what you know is coming. While we don’t know when the promise will come, we know it will…so, with no other choice we wait, knowing better and more magnificent days are ahead!
The Gift of Faith. It’s a gift that we have to exercise. It’s available in any given moment and in any situation. It’s a gift that is built on belief that the Bible is true, and God will do what he says and what he has done before. We’ve circled situations because the children of Israel circled Jericho. We’ve anointed prayer clothes like the early church did. We speak in the name of Jesus because Simon Peter and John did, and our faith says, “if it happened for them, it could happen for us.” Faith sees Jesus, the miraculous more than obstacles and impossibilities. A boat full of disciples saw a storm; they saw waves and lightening, heard thunder and slapping seas, but Simon Peter saw Jesus. Suddenly, faith overrides fear and common sense is taken over by crazy faith, and before you know it, Simon Peter is walking on water. That is the essence of faith, that the impossible becomes possible and the improbable becomes probable. Faith takes what Jesus said in Matthew 19 literally, “but with God all things are possible.” How much faith do you need to see the miraculous begin to happen? Just a little. As Jesus said, “the faith of a mustard seed.” Faith is about knowing “all things are possible with God.” The challenge is simply to have faith. Faith in discouraging times, difficult times, fearful times and overwhelming times. The question is not, whether something is possible or not, rather the question is will we exercise faith. It’s the question Jesus asks in Luke 18, “when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” The Gift of Faith. Are you using yours?
What do you believe? It’s an important question because what you believe becomes your truth, it becomes what you live your life around. As a society we are living in a time when beliefs are being fiercely challenged. The internet, access to information, and exposure to so many ideas and opinions are impacting life as never before. This is why personal ownership of belief is critical in this hour. Our beliefs can’t be based on religious tradition, church denomination or a pastor’s personal beliefs, it must be your belief. Your belief must come from a reputable source. It must be a source that has been proven true and has stood the test of time. Your belief must be something you have studied and can defend. I have always found my beliefs in God’s Word, but in today’s world, even that is being challenged. God’s Word has been eliminated from schools, mocked by media and is being explained away by educators and science. For it to be secure in our life, for our family’s future, it must be something we read, study and have ownership of. So, what do I believe? I believe that God came to this earth as Jesus. I believe that He healed people that were blind, deaf, lame and had diseases. I believe Jesus walked on water, multiplied bread and brought dead people back to life. I believe that Jesus was crucified on a cross, died and resurrected and was seen by hundreds of eyewitnesses. I believe He sent His Spirit first to a group of people in an upper room and then to every culture and period of time. This is my belief, I own it and its what I build my life, my family and my future upon. What do you believe? It’s a choice. It’s God gift to you.
Dungeons. Desert Destinations. Lion’s Den. Not what we would call precursors to new dimensions in our life. Often what feels like defeat is the tool God uses to bring about incredible change. Joseph’s dream is about leading his family, a thirteen-year dungeon destination doesn’t fit his model, but unless there is a dungeon, there is no baker and butler, and when the Pharaoh has a dream, there is no Joseph to interpret it. God’s plans often look peculiar, but if we trust His process, there is purpose. Moses’ forty-year stint in the desert seems futile and worthless, but that forty-year pause teaches him how to navigate the very desert he will lead the children of Israel through as God’s chosen deliverer. A lion’s den seems a sentence to certain death, but one night with a few sleepy lions, brings drastic change in the leadership in Babylon and jettisons Daniel to a powerful influencer. Have you ever considered that the difficult situation or problem you’re facing could be the tool that God uses to bring about great victory? I can’t answer that for you, but I do know what Joseph said looking back on the dark and trying period of his life, “what you (his brothers) meant for harm, God meant for good.” What are you going through? Look at it through the lens of possibility. Could it be that God is using your trial to work out something for your good? Only time will tell, but I do know this, often God uses our problems to propel us into new places. God, give us the strength and faith to trust in your process.
Over the past few weeks we’ve watched as the leaves have fell from the trees in our backyard. We knew it was coming, the weather was getting cooler and the leaves had begun to change colors. We’ve watched as brilliant yellow, orange and red leaves, one by one, dropped to the ground. Some fell without any coercion; others fell when there was a gentle breeze. Some held on until strong winds came. Yesterday, with the heavy rain, yet another bunch fell. Yet today, as we look out the window, still many leaves remain. When will they fall? I’m not sure, it may be when another gentle breeze blows or it may take another strong wind or rainstorm. What I do know, at some point in the near future, I will look out to barren trees. But one thing I know, that without exception, nearly every year, there will be a few leaves that stay attached through the winter. What makes the difference? I’m not really sure, but my guess is they were just a tad bit more attached to the life source. Somehow, they tapped into the root system, held a little more water, gained a little more strength and they held strong. A good idea. 1 Timothy 1:4 says “in the later times some will depart from the faith.” We are living in different times; times like never before. Church doors closed, online church became the norm and accountability became optional. Now we’re beginning to see the effect. Some are drifting away, enticed by convenience and pleasure. My admonition; remain faithful to righteousness and godliness, make God’s house a priority and no matter what, stay connected to Jesus, your Life source.
This time each year Mary and I journey to Nashville, Indiana. Once we arrive, we hit a few shops and then normally grab a tenderloin at The Ordinary. Truth is though, our destination is not as important as our journey. The journey is really why we go. Leaving Indy, we can’t wait to get to Trafalgar and the country roads, it’s here that the pace of life changes. First is a stop at Apple Works where we get a gallon of apple cider, two caramel apples with nuts and we take a stroll through the woods. From Apple Works we hit Spearsville road where you will find more hairpin turns than you could ever dream. That alone makes it a fun journey but add in an explosion of fall color that looks like the Fourth of July in leaves and you’re pretty close to heaven. From there we head to Bean Blossom and Covered Bridge Road where, you guess it, we cross Bean Blossom Bridge. After a few photos we meander up the gravel road, turn left and head to Greasy Creek Road, yet another spectacular view of God’s gift of fall with more winding roads. Greasy Creek eventually brings us to our destination, but the reality is, the journey was our destination. I share our journey simply to remind everyone that each day is a gift from God, it should be enjoyed, not endured. God makes each day unique and when we decide to enjoy the journey everything changes. No longer is anxiety and exhaustion dominant, but instead, happiness, laughter and a fresh view of God. Change your perspective. This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it! Enjoy the journey!
Measure twice, cut once. It’s the golden rule of carpentry. It’s the first rule a carpenter learns. It’s one I’ve ignored countless times and found myself returning to Lowe’s to buy more wood. It’s a natural rule with a spiritual principle. There have been way too many times when I’ve measured my life wrong. Too many times we use the wrong measuring device or idea, or worse, the concepts of this world. Joseph has a bad ten-minute conversation that changes his life. His brother’s measure it wrong, and suddenly jealousy, rage and thoughts of murder fill their lives. They make a cut and Joseph is betrayed and abandoned. He lives over 12 years with regret, remorse, questioning himself and spinning in to despair. All the while, God appears to be silent, but in actuality, God is working. We learn that God does not measure as we do. We see failure, we see brokenness and despair, but God sees development, possibility and promise. God measures Joseph’s life differently than his brothers or Joseph did. Measured correctly by God, Joseph’s life catapults from a pit to the palace and his family and nation is saved. Six hours one Friday, men made a measurement, and made a cut. The Roman’s mocked, gambled for his garments and ridiculed. Pharisees measured the moment and said, “he could save others but not himself.” Disciples said, it was a good run but it’s over and women wept in the finality of it all. The words, “it is finished,” and humanity measured and made a cut. But God measures twice and cuts once and He doesn’t error; resurrection, ascension, outpouring and we learn God measures right. To every dad, husband and man who has failed, who is broken, who is flawed and feels it is finished. Don’t measure your life once and make a cut. Don’t believe you or your situation is hopeless. Measure your life by God’s Word and not by this world or your present circumstances. Man measures once, but God measures twice, and God measures right.
This year’s graduates will have a memory like no other. Their kids won’t believe their story. It will sound like the stories that some of us heard from our parents, that they walked uphill in the snow, both to, and from school. For most, there has been no school activities, athletics, prom or graduation. They didn’t order invitations or have big graduation parties and there were no cap and gowns or move the tassel moments. Who could have dreamed or imagined a scenario like this? In January we were excited about 2020. We were casting vision and setting direction for an exciting year. Then suddenly a word we had never heard, changed our lives forever, COVID-19. Words we had never heard of became a regular part of our vocabulary; isolation and social distancing. I don’t know of one person who wasn’t caught off guard as our lives hit the pause button in late March. This is the confidence I do have, that God knew. Maybe this is why James 4:14 says, “you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” What I do know is this, that, while we can plot and plan, we don’t have a clue what the future may hold. To some, this is a scary thought, but to those who know Jesus, it isn’t. Why? Because while I may not know what tomorrow holds, I know who holds tomorrow, and I know what happens in the end. Jesus returns, those who have built their lives on Him, whether dead or alive, rise to meet Him in Heaven and there we will live forever. That gives me comfort. That gives me strength. That gives me hope. Maybe the good old children’s church song would be a good reminder to us all right now. It starts like this, “He’s got the whole world in His hands, He’s got the whole world in His hands…” I don’t have to recite the rest of the song, because if you got those words resolved in your heart, everything else falls in place.
It’s 5 a.m. You have your coffee, your destination in mind and might be getting your mind revved up for the day. You don’t expect too much action or mind-blowing moments in your neighborhood. Recently, as I was driving out of ours, my attention was caught by a small light ahead of me to my left. It wasn’t a big light, probably the size of a flashlight. It was about two feet off the ground, swaying gently. What I saw next left me speechless. It was an elderly woman, probably in her late 60’s. She has a LED headband lamp strapped to her head and was on the ground trimming and edging her sidewalk with lawn clippers. It was evident she had been there for a while; she was halfway down the sidewalk. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. So many questions, so few answers. What time did you get up? Why do you trim a sidewalk at 5 a.m.? Did you have coffee first? Who gave you the idea to use an LED headlamp to trim grass? Who still uses lawn clippers? I can’t drive past her house now without reliving the moment. I’m sure there was a reason. Maybe she works an odd shift. Maybe she doesn’t like the heat. Maybe she wants to avoid people. The possibilities are endless. What came to my mind was Psalm 119:105, “your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Whether we realize it or not, the times we live in are dark and it can be hard to think and see clearly. What we need is what she had; a light to help her navigate the moment. I don’t know why she was cutting grass at 5 a.m. and I don’t really want to understand, but I do know there are many difficult dynamics happening in our world right now. So many opinions. How do we navigate? We need the Light. Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” Looking for direction? Searching for answers? Trying to traverse the issues of the day. Get the Light of the World involved in your light. He brings clarity in the darkest of situations.
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.
Freedom. This week we will celebrate with picnics and fireworks. Freedom, as a Nation it has been fought for through many wars and as a Christian it has been given to us through the work of Jesus on Calvary. As a Nation, if we are not careful, we will give away our liberty. The current climate is one where there is an all-out attack on our freedoms. If we’re not vigilant, without a shot being fired or war being fought, we will lose our right for free speech, right to defend ourselves and the right to worship without being censored. As tragic as that may be, a worse scenario is to lose the freedom Jesus purchased for us on Calvary. Regardless of how hard we might try, without His blood, mercy and grace we were bound to sin. With one gracious act, God robing himself in flesh, coming to earth and becoming our sacrifice, sins power was rendered powerless. When we repent of our sins, are filled with His Spirit and live daily in relationship with Him, sins power is limited. But the moment we fail to keep Him as the priority of our life, fail to pray and read His Word and fail to make His house our priority, sins power begins to take hold once again. We surrender the freedom we’ve gained, and He gave us. Let’s make a commitment to guard, protect and value the freedom we’ve been given in Jesus. Live in the liberty of the Spirit.
Have you ever been so thirsty that the Sahara Desert seemed like a rain forest? Have you ever got into your car only to find it so empty that you had the best prayer meeting of your week as you prayed your car to the gas station? Dry. Empty. Two words we don’t like to hear and they are especially difficult to hear when we walk through dry and empty times in our spiritual lives. We pray, fast, worship and read God’s word but it all seems to go nowhere. We seek God but He is nowhere to be found. Moses spent 40 years wandering in a desert, Paul spent three years in a desert and Jeremiah preached his entire life without one convert. Dry and empty times do not mean we are lost, in fact we may be exactly where God wants us to be. It is often in our empty and dry times that we become most sensitive to God. It’s in these times His voice becomes more defined and His direction becomes clearer. While our world likes the words successful and powerful to describe great men and women, God often chooses to use words like broken, yielded and surrendered to describe his most powerful men and women. Going through a tough stretch? Feeling empty and broken? God takes an empty vessel and fills a house full of jars with oil. He takes empty water pots, has them filled with water and turns them to wine. If you’re empty and dry, don’t be overly concerned, God likely has you right where He wants you. Keep trusting and believing!
For seven hours, thirty-six racers competed for thirty-three slots in the Indianapolis 500 yesterday. For months, plans had been made, sponsors gathered and hours of practice had taken place. At the end of the day, regardless of the investment, three drivers weren’t good enough; they didn’t qualify. I am thankful that my salvation isn’t predicated on qualifying. It’s not my work but the work that Jesus did that makes the difference. Jesus took care of our qualifying. He went to the cross, shed His blood, resurrected and ascended. That finished it. His work on Calvary qualifies us for salvation, eternal life and heaven. Our job? Simple, run the race. Believe that Jesus’ work qualifies us. Obey His Gospel. Have a relationship with Him. Seek Him daily. Live in repentance and be water and Spirit filled as He said in John 3:5 – 6. We don’t have to be perfect, we don’t have to live in fear and we don’t have to worry that there are only so many spots. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “come ALL who are weary and heavy burdened.” It’s not based on men, organizations or good works, it’s open to all who come to Him humbly. I love how the author put it in Hebrews 12, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” Today, I have three words for you. Run your race.