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.
A kaleidoscope of color. The Fourth of July in May. It’s God’s creation exploding with new life as we move into a new season. A lot of rain and a little sun and waalaa…color! Multi-colored tulips, purple redbuds, white dogwoods, pink crab apples, yellow azaleas and lots of green grass to mow. When the gray of winter finally surrenders to the brilliance of spring, life comes back with vengeance. With all the color comes evening walks, bicycle rides, visits to the golf course and picnics in the park. It’s as if not only did spring bring color, but life, hope and joy. It reminds me of the scripture found in Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” What is true of natural spring is true of a spiritual spring too. Our lives are seasonal, we go through times heat and drought, times that are crisp with color and winter, where it’s cold, dark and gray. But thankfully there is spring! The time when we come back to life. Our joy returns, our smile radiates and we have the energy to take on Goliath and conqueror the walls of Jericho. Has it been a long winter? Take heart, spring is coming! Your life will once again burst with brilliance. You’re not too far from a bounce in your step, a gleam in your eye, a song in your heart and faith to believe all things are possible. Spring is on its way!
Jesus didn’t just resurrect, He made Himself accessible to people. He comforts the heart of Mary. He walks with overwhelmed disciples as they return home after the Passover. He eats some fish with ten disciples and then makes a special appearance again so that Thomas can experience what the ten had. He shows up on a sea shore where weary fishermen have spent the night catching nothing and He shows up to a gathering of over 500 believers. Why does He spend forty days in communion with people before ascending into heaven? Because He wants us to know; He wants us to know he cares about our grief and pain. He wants us to know that He understands our uncertainty and fears. He shows up to show us that He cares when seven disciples haven’t caught any fish. He shows up when 500 disciples (I Cor.15:6) need just one more visit. Why is that important to us? Because, if He cared for those who had already seen Him, how much more does He care about those who haven’t, who are walking by faith? I believe Jesus stayed around and showed up so our faith would be stronger. If He will show up for a doubting Thomas, He will show up for you. If He’ll walk with two overwhelmed disciples, He will walk with you. Nearly every time Jesus showed up, the person was shocked and overwhelmed. Overwhelmed? Dazed? Confused? Hurt? Don’t be surprised when Jesus shows up in your world. That is just who He is and that is just what He does. He just shows up.
There will always be moments when we are tempted to cut our losses and run but often God is saying, “stay.” Ruth is a beautiful example where logic seemed to be saying go back, but faith was saying, “stay.” Ruth 1:16 says, “But Ruth said, do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”I believe Ruth understood that the moment was more about who would be her God than her physical circumstances.She believed in Naomi’s relationship with God, and because of her decision to stay, she was catapulted into an introduction to Boaz. There are two things that we need to do if we are going to be where God wants us. First, ask some questions. Where is God asking me to “stay?” What does God want me to pursue? More family time? More spiritual development? If so, stop pursuing your dreams and follow His. Second, be a finisher. God often uses the very things that we hate, that hurt and are difficult to rewire and transform us. If you’ve quit something that you should have stayed with, have the courage to make it right. Joseph stayed with the process and the closing line to his story was, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” I challenge you, find your “stay” and see where it takes you.
Stepping toward our destiny may mean we have to step away from our security and each time we are willing to take a risk, to do something unfamiliar or uncertain, we learn more about God and to trust Him more.Going where God wants us to go often means leaving what is comfortable, predictable and easy and often God has to stir us, make us uncomfortable or challenge us to think in a new way. Waiting for lunch, Simon Peter deals with a disturbing dream that defies everything he believes. Three separate times a sheet drops down challenging him to eat food that was considered “unclean.” Confounded by the dream, Simon Peter doesn’t realize the dream is preparing him for a new realm of belief and understanding of God. As the dream comes to an end, a man from the house of Cornelius comes asking him to preach the Gospel. The dream leads to a “go” that brings the Gospel to a new ethnicity of people. With every “go” there is a risk verses reward challenge, and either we ourselves or our adversary, makes the risk look larger than the reward. In reality, it is just the opposite, the reward is almost always greater than the risk. Why are we hesitant? Because fear loves to overwhelm faith. We want details, we rationalize, when God is saying, “trust me, go.” Where is God asking you to go? Stagnation in our walk with God and life is not God’s plan. Step into your “go” and watch where God takes you!
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!
Learning to Stop. It sounds easier than it is. It’s just one more cookie. It’s just another minute or two on social media that turns into thirty. Learning to stop takes time and experiences. Time and experience create wisdom, it’s life experiences, yours and what we learn from others and wisdom is God’s navigational tool that helps us to make right decisions and helps us to stop making or repeating wrong choices. Have a major decision in front of you? Here are three processes to help. First, stop! Use wisdom from your experiences or glean wisdom from others who already walked through your situation. Often the best thing we can do is take a time out. Hit the pause button. Sleep on it. Next, ask yourself these questions. “Where will this end up? Is this the story I want to write? Is this God’s story for me?” Finally, visualize the outcome long-term. Visualizing can help us connect the dots from where we are too where we want to be rather than where we are and how did we get here. Taking time to implement these three techniques can help us to stop and start us in a new direction. What is God asking you to abort, abandon, to stop, so you can live to tell a better story and have a better life? Hebrews 12:1says, “Lay aside every weight and sin.” What is the one thing that is really hindering you? Seek God’s help, pray, read your bible and fast and I believe you can begin a stop today.
In the first session of our new Wednesday night series, Divine Direction, we learned that regardless of our past, the future and the number of chapters still to be written, is unknown. Because we have no idea of how many chapters are left to be written, we can choose to start writing a new chapter today. We also discovered that just because we’ve been handed one blueprint does not mean we have to build on it, we can ask God for another blueprint and build something new. Regardless of where we’ve came from, what we’ve walked through or what we’ve experienced, we have the choice to build a different kind of life, family and home. Rahab is a beautiful example. Her early chapters were about being a harlot. Simply by having faith in God and putting a scarlet scarf out her window, she changed her story. She started a new chapter and changed her family’s heritage forever. From a harlot to the bloodline of Jesus! That’s an amazing transformation. Want to start building something new, start a new chapter? Here’s five principles to implement. 1. Pray, ask for God to give you strength and wisdom. 2. Assess, do an honest assessment of who you are and who God wants you to be. 3. Focus, on one single change for this year. 4. Daily, work on that one change and remember it’s a process, not a moment. 5. Start! Simply start doing one new thing today!
Super Bowl 53. 110 Million people will watch. Some watch to see the game, many tune in to see the commercials and a few are there for the halftime show. With such a large audience, companies are willing to hand over $170,000 per second to gain your attention and sell their product. At the end, a team will walk away with the title of champion and their town will celebrate like it is New Year’s Day. The next day people will gather around cubicles and water coolers to talk about their favorite commercial and maybe a great play or controversial call. But the reality is that within a few days the game and the commercials will be history, life will go on until the next “big” event. And so it goes, we live from one event to another. Solomon put it well in Ecclesiastes 1:2 “…vanity of vanities. All is vanity.” If we live for the Big Game, the next event or gadget, then life quickly becomes empty. It really has no purpose. What gives your life purpose is not your social life, education or job, but God. If we live with a God purpose then life has purpose. No longer are we living for the next great thing, we are living to see Him, living for Heaven. A simple question today. Where’s your life focus, your priorities? Is it on the earthly or the eternal? The answer makes all the difference to how you view and live life.
The lines were drawn. We will eat vegetables and drink water and your servants will eat the king’s food. After ten days you observe and see who is in better condition. The ten days passed, the meals ate and as the king observed both groups, it was evident that the four young Hebrew men were stronger. Not only that, but scripture says that God had given them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom. While we cannot comprehend how, we cannot deny the fact that God honored their fast, their commitment and faith in God. In the New Testament, after fasting, the powerful and influential church in Antioch was inspired to send Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey. That period of submission brought about an explosion of the gospel that changed the world. It all started with a church that prayed and fasted. Again, how it works we don’t understand, but that it works we cannot deny. As we step into a new year I am encouraging every person to get involved in Life Fast 2019. 2 Chronicles 7:14 is a contract between God and His people. It’s a simple contract. If we will humble ourselves, pray and seek His face and turn from sin then we will hear from Heaven, He will forgive and He will heal. 2019 can be a year of incredible change and blessing. It starts with making a commitment, staying the course and keeping the faith. Want to see something different happen in your life? Then do something different. Get on board, fast, pray and seek God like never before.
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!
The unexpected. It brings a myriad of emotions from screams to tears. Sometimes people faint while others dance. The unexpected, when the impossibility becomes a reality. One year we surprised our kids with a puppy. It was so far off their radar that when they opened the box they literally froze in shock. They were so stunned that they set in silence for what felt like five minutes. We nearly had to shake them back to reality, but when we did, the pandemonium was unbelievable. Dancing, shouting and screaming all ensued as the reality of the moment sunk in. The story of Christmas is about God doing the stunningly unexpected. An angel shows up in a forgotten little burg to a young teenager, calls her highly favored, and announces she will be the mother of Emmanuel, God with us. Unexpected. Simple and unassuming shepherds sitting on a quiet hillside tending sheep when suddenly there is an explosion of light and sound as the skies are filled with angels singing, Hosanna. Unexpected. I wonder how many people in the tiny town of Bethlehem were asking, “who is this teenage couple,” as lowly shepherds show up to honor Him and Magi come with mountains of gifts. Who could have imagined that God in flesh in the form of a baby had come to their town? Unexpected. Christmas and the gifts under the tree. They fill us with imagination, wonder and maybe the unexpected. They are to remind us of what Jesus did and can still do. The unexpected.
A raindrop, pebble, rock or stone; no matter the object or size, it creates a ripple that the diameter, effect and end, no one knows. The impact of our lives, are much like a ripple. We serve God, share the Gospel, give money and tell our story, yet often leave this life not knowing the impact of our existence. Stephen is an example of such a life. The Bible simply says that Stephen was a man full of faith, full of grace and power and full of the Spirit. His life ends tragically with a stoning by wicked men. Those who witnessed his life likely talked about his potential and all that he could have done if God had spared his life. Yet, that day was just the splashing of a stone. The impact of his life had not ended, but just began. That day a young Saul watched his stoning and a ripple started in his heart. A ripple that would takes years to see its effect, but on a road to Damascus, everything changed. Saul becomes Paul, is converted, and the rest is history. Countless messages preached, missionary journeys, many churches established and twelve epistles written. All a ripple effect from a life that seemed to end so senselessly. When we get to Heaven I imagine Stephen will be shocked by the impact of his life. I have a feeling it will be the same for many today who read this story. Live a life that leaves a ripple.