I’m getting older and my musical taste is headed that direction too. I admit it, I like Rascal Flatts, especially at Christmas. When Mary and I are ready to put up the Christmas tree nothing sets the mood better than Rascal’s version of Go Tell it on the Mountain. Crank up their version of Joy to the World in our home and you’ve got instant Christmas spirit. If I’ve got to have something a little more traditional, give me their rendition of Hark, the Herald Angel Sing and I’m at Bethlehem. What cranks your gears? Who is your Christmas artist of choice? Maybe for you it’s a little Mariah Carey and Jesus, What a Wonderful Child or Carrie Underwood singing All is Well. Whatever your flavor, it’s time to bring out the Christmas music, the one’s that magnify Jesus’, and celebrate the birth of the Savior. This season is not about Santa and reindeer, gifts and greed, but God who came in a baby’s body to save a broken world. If there is ever a time this world needs to know His story, it’s now. Our culture is confused, families are fractured, and our country is as divided as ever. There seems to be no solution, but for those who know Jesus and His story, even in the darkest of hours, there is hope. Why sing Go Tell it on the Mountain? Because people need to know the story of our Savior. Why blare Joy to the World? Because you live in a world filled with despair and people need to hear that there is real joy in Jesus. So, dial in your Spotify Christmas list, play it loud, and play it often. Go tell it on the mountain, or at least in your world.
Life’s vision involves three-segments. First, touch God every day. It may change daily, but includes Bible reading, prayer, worship, and devotion. Another segment of our vision is being involved in something that outlives you. A personal ministry, project, or a financial foundation; anything that will leave an imprint on the next generation. A final segment involves intentionally impacting someone’s life every day. That doesn’t mean grabbing a bull horn or bashing them with the Bible. It means being purposeful about making a positive impact on someone daily. Lately the Spirit has been prompting me to be more active in this area. So, I’ve been intentional. A cashier caught my attention with his amazing spirit and attitude, so I gave him a compliment. He lit up like the fourth of July, you would have thought I had given him a hundred-dollar bill. Making a run to the grocery, a group of elementary kids walking to a local park for end of the year festivities, spotted our little red car. They started giving us the “18-wheeler blow the horn motion.” We gave them a beep, beep, smiled, waved and instantly the entire group exploded into laughter and cheers as we drove off. Finally, as we were walking through a park, I noticed a couple meandering slowly up ahead of us. Their spirit seemed heavy, so as we passed, I gave them a smile, “a good morning,” and instantly their countenance changed. The elderly lady said, “yes, it is” and before I knew it, I blurted out the first stanza of Psalm 118:24, “this is the day,” she responded with, “that the Lord has made, and I said, “I will rejoice,” and she completed it with, “and be glad in it.” We left them laughing and with a memory for the day. My point? Impacting others is simple, easy, and cost nothing. Start being intentional about impacting a world that is hopeless, hurting, and broken. Let your positive actions be the conversation at their dinner table.
It’s decision time! It’s a new year and with it comes the choice to plant new seeds. It matters what we plant at the beginning of our year, because eventually, what we plant comes to life and bares fruit. Here in Indiana, farmers decide in the winter what will be in their fields, whether wheat, beans, or corn and they have no doubt that what they plant will show up later in the year. Paul cautions the Galatians of the importance of the sowing and reaping principle, that it is not just an agricultural matter, but that it is also a spiritual one. Want to experience the presence and power of God? Want to see the hand of God impact your life? Sow correctly. Sow faithfulness to God’s house. Invest regularly in prayer and devotion. Invite God to be more involved in your daily life. Start or get involved in a small group. Sow kindness, mercy, and grace. All of these are seeds, that if planted, will lead to a God impacted future. Likewise, if we sow to our fleshly or selfish desires, we will reap the fruit of those seeds DNA. Farmers don’t plant corn and expect apples, neither can we plant to the flesh and expect to see God’s presence in a new dimension. Finally, I encourage you to plant spiritual seed generously. Paul said to the Corinthians, “I plant, Apollos watered, but it is God who gives the increase.” In essence, the more we plant in the Spirit, the more we give God an opportunity to multiply and bless. As you start your year, take time to think about what you want to experience in God and then plant abundantly.
2022. It’s in your Hands
With each New Year comes a blank canvas; an opportunity to entertain new aspirations, make fresh commitments, and vow to make pivotal changes in our lives. In the Bible the word for year is shannah and it can have a different meaning depending on the usage. The first meaning is to duplicate or repeat, as in repeating of the seasons of a year. The second definition is to change, as in, things will be different. What happens in 2022? What will your year look like? A lot depends on how we view our possibilities and opportunities. Will it be a year where we repeat much of what we have done in years gone by or will it be year where we embrace some alterations in our lives and venture in unknown territory? Some repetition is good, good habits and practices are good, but sometimes repetition can lead to stagnation. Our nature is to make commitments but after a few days or weeks, fall back into our old habits and routines. Change is never easy, but often necessary to move into a new dimension of life. Change takes openness, vision, and trusting in God. Change isn’t always comfortable, can feel awkward and scary, but it is here that we often see God in new dimensions. Interested? Seek God with all your heart, choose to live in bold faith, pray big prayers, decide to walk in the Spirit one day at a time. 2022, a year or repetition or change? The answer rests in your hands.
Evidently God likes to celebrate. We don’t get too far into the Bible before God gives Moses his Law. While much attention is put on the negative elements of the Law, there was also some good aspects. That includes the Feast, or celebrations, that God called for each year. The major purpose of these Feast was to remember and give thanks to God for all He had done, and to bring people together. The Passover Feast was to remember and celebrate God bringing people out of bondage, and the Feast of Pentecost was to remind them to celebrate God’s holiness and power. But it’s the third Feast, the Feast of Booths, that I draw your attention to. This celebration took place in the fall and was a time of giving thanks for a good harvest, recognizing God as their provider, and celebrating the goodness of life. People basically camped out, ate good food, listened to music, and partied for seven days. It was open, not only to the people of Israel, but to all people who trusted in God. It was a festival where God wanted people to enjoy His blessings. I love that! Too often we lose focus on the goodness of God and great blessings of life. We allow social media and doomsday broadcasters to control our emotions and thoughts. We forget to look around at all the good, the good people God has put in our lives, and the blessings that we do enjoy. Today, our Chili Cook-Off is our Feast of Booths. It’s a moment to celebrate life, to celebrate the friendships we have, and to make new memories. It’s a time to reminisce, laugh and make new friends. So today, eat more chili than you should, trash talk more than you can live up to and make your circle bigger than normal. Celebrate life with your Life Community and remember, the best is yet to come!
The Other Side of the Fence
His yard has shade trees, fruit trees, cement and gravel patios, beautiful flowers, and lots of space to roam. The grass is lush and green, and the yard has been sprayed so there are no weeds or bugs. There is a fence to keep people and large animals from entering; he is protected. It should be a paradise. But for Gentry’s dog, JJ, it is not. He is constantly escaping through the fence to get on the other side. For some reason he feels as though the grass is green on the other side of the fence. It’s not. In fact, there are more weeds and bugs, and it is definitely not as safe. Next door are several large dogs and a few yards to the west, is a golf course where he could easily be hit by a ball. Travel a few yards east and he’s in the street where he could be hit by a car, or someone could take him. We’ve done all that we can to protect JJ, but regardless of how hard we try, we can’t protect him from himself. Kind of a snapshot of what God has done for us. God has given us everything we need to have a beautiful life. He has set parameters in place for our protection, to keep us safe. Yet, like JJ, many see the grass greener on the other side of the fence. For some reason much of humanity see sin as liberty; that on the other side of God’s Word and warnings, there is something better. Our world advertises happiness, freedom, and liberty without God, but way too often it’s filled with hurt, brokenness and pain. Learn to live in God’s constraints and all the good things He has prepared for you. Regardless of how it may look, living inside the fence is the best life.
I Can Be Happy without a Happy Meal
James Springer wanted a Happy Meal. The problem was that it was ten o’clock in the morning and McDonald’s didn’t start serving lunch until 10:30a.m. According to the news, Springer became upset when they told him it was too early for a Happy Meal, so upset that he threatened to kill all the employees. Thankfully, the authorities were called, Springer was arrested, and the crisis was diffused. The whole story is a sad snapshot of where our society currently is. We have lost the art of being content, and appreciative. The issue of contentment is not new, but one humanity has dealt with from the beginning of time. Eve is blessed with a perfect world, but Satan subtlety convinces her she is not enough, that she doesn’t have enough. David marries King Saul’s beautiful daughter, but finds himself discontent, and nearly loses the kingdom and his family in his pursuit of Bathsheba. What about you? Are you constantly in pursuit of something? Are you continually upgrading to the latest phone, bigger tv or latest style? May I ask, at what point will you find contentment? In Philippians 4:11 Paul says, “I have learned to be content.” Contentment isn’t something you arrive at once you get a certain item, join a social group or get an amount of money or fame. Contentment is a decision. That’s why Paul says, “I have learned.” This world always had us pursuing after the latest and the greatest. One of the best places we can come to in our lives, is when we come to the point where we can say to this world, “no, I don’t need that, that’s nice but I have enough, I am content.” Whether it’s a hamburger, fries, and soft drink in a cute little box with a prize or the latest must have item, learn to say, “I can be Happy without a Happy Meal.
Plant the Right Stuff
Spring! Go to Lowe’s or any home and garden shop, and if you’re lucky enough to find a parking place, you can count on a long line once you find your plants and flowers. Whether it’s tulips, trees or tomatoes, this is the time when people are getting them in the ground. Planting tulips? Expect beautiful hues of reds, purples and pink petals. Plant an apple, peach or cherry tree, and in time, you will enjoy some fresh fruit. Get the garden growing and soon tomatoes, cucumbers and summer squash will be on your dinner table. When we plant, we plant with expectations. Flowers with no petals, fruit trees with no fruit and a garden with no red ripe Indiana tomato is just not acceptable. As we celebrate Spring, be reminded that the same laws of sowing and reaping that applies to plants and flowers apply when it comes to what we plant in our lives and families. If we plant unfaithfulness in bible reading, prayer and attending God’s house, expect our kids to do the same. Be faithful in devotion, a worshipper at church and serve others and watch your kids flourish spiritually. Be a person who gossips, is sarcastic and negative and you will find those are the type of people you will attract. Be a person who encourages, shows grace and extends mercy and you will find when you need the same it will be in abundance. A word to the wise, plant well both in your garden and in your life. Plant your flowers and plants in good soil and plant your life in God’s Word. Keep your plants watered and your life saturated with prayer. Then, in time, you will see beautiful flowers and plants in your yard and a spirit of peace and joy in your heart.
We Need a Little Christmas
Why did I start a Christmas Series in November? Great question. Because it has been a long and difficult year and we needed some joy, something to make our hearts merry and a word to encourage our spirits. Nothing does that quite like a song, especially a Christmas song. In Ephesians 5:19, Paul encourages us “to speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your hearts to the Lord.” Christmas songs remind us of the hope found in Jesus. Sing Joy to the World, and you can’t help but feel the hope in Jesus. Sing Silent Night, Holy Night and calm and peace surrounds you. Other Christmas carols cause us to reflect on days gone by. Sing, Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire and whether you have a fireplace or not, or even if you have never tasted a Chestnut, you can still feel the warmth and nostalgia. Still other tunes take us to dreams of another place. Sing songs like Walking in a Winter Wonder Land or Let it Snow and whether you’re in Florida or the Rockies you want to grab the mittens and gloves and make a snowman or have a snowball fight. The simple point is this, Christmas and the songs changes the spirit of the heart. We become more reflective, kinder, and tend to have hearts that long to give. Proverbs 17:22 says that “a joyful heart is good medicine.” So, I invite you, click on your favorite Spotify Christmas list, pull out some old vinyl’s or dial up the Christmas radio station and start the joy early this year because as the song says, “We need a Little Christmas, Right this very Minute…”
Enjoy the Journey
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!
Pentecost. It is not a religion. It is an experience. It was not birthed in the book of Acts; it was birthed in the Exodus, as the Children of Israel were headed to the Promise Land. It was a feast. It was to be celebrated 50 days after Passover. It was called, “The Feast of Harvest or Weeks” and “The Day of First Fruits.” It was a time of celebration and thanksgiving for the grain harvest, for God’s provision. It was a celebration that had been commemorated for nearly 1500 years by the time we get to the book of Acts. It was on the Day of Pentecost, 50 days after Passover, that God orchestrated and arranged, the outpouring of His promise, His Spirit. He had told the disciples to go and wait in Jerusalem for the promise; the promise of His Spirit and His power. It would be a life changing experience. Pentecost would have been a time when people from all over the known world would have come to Jerusalem to celebrate. The timing of the outpouring created a spiritual pandemic, people took back the incredible news of the outpouring; the experience, the fire, the wind and the foreign languages being spoke, to all regions of the world. The Day of Pentecost in the book of Acts is the day that God went from being, “God with us,” to “God in us.” Pentecost. It is not a one-time experience, it’s not just speaking in an unknown language, a religion, or a good band with a song that creates emotion. Pentecost isn’t something you have to do or get; it is something you want to experience. Pentecost is the gift of God’s Spirit in you, it’s the power of God in you and it’s the resurrection of Jesus in you. Pentecost is the greatest experience you can experience in this life. Pentecost wasn’t just for the disciples 2000 years ago, it wasn’t something that just happen once to some disciples, but it was something that happened and has happened over and over since that first experience. Pentecost. Don’t settle for anything less than what the original church experience. Seek God and ask for your gift. Experience Pentecost for yourself.