Parke County, It’s a fall tradition for Mary and me. We take a day, grab a cup of coffee at Urban Grounds in Rockville, hit a few shops in town, and then we’re off to the main attraction, to see the bridges. To be exact, thirty-one covered bridges. Some you have to walk; some you get to hear the clonking of wood planks as your car crosses the bridge. Nothing like taking a few hours to step into the past and enjoy a time that was much simpler and slower. There’s one requirement to experience the bridges of Parke County, you must leave the main roads, even the secondary roads, and drive on country, one lane, and gravel roads. The bridges of Parke County make you step away from the crowds, slow down, and enjoy nature and the beautiful colors of fall. I think that’s what Mary and I like best. Most of the bridges are on gravel roads, nestled in forest, farmland, and places that only those who are intentionally looking, will find them. The bridges of Parke County aren’t just about the bridges for us, it’s more about enjoying the atmosphere, nostalgia, and the dream of a simpler life. Driving on a gravel road slows your pace to about 10 mph, gives you time to reflect on the past, and have conversations you’ve need to have, but haven’t, because life just gets too busy. In my humble opinion a lot of us could use a drive to Parke County and the thirty-one covered bridges. You would enjoy the bridges, but the purpose of your trip wouldn’t be about them, but about getting off the interstate of life and letting your mind spend some time on a peaceful gravel road. It’s on the gravel road where you will get a sense of what’s important again, reconnect with your spouse, and see that there’s more significant issues than what’s happening on social media or getting to the next movie or game. The color of fall may be gone, and snow is on the way, but I still would invite you to put a trip down a gravel road on your calendar, or at least in the back of your mind.
From the beginning of the year, God has laser focused messages at Life on the importance of seeing correctly, of being aligned with your pastors and the Spirit. Luke shows us the importance of being present in Acts 1. After Jesus ascends into heaven the disciples are left with the task of replacing Judas. As they begin the process, they first set the criteria for filling the position. What was the criteria? It was this, that whoever filled the roll had to have been with Jesus from His baptism until His death. Why? They understood that if the person had not been present, that they would not be able to align with the vision that Jesus had given them. How important was being present? All we have to do is turn to the first verse in Acts 2. Luke’s first line says it all, “they were in one place and in one accord.” You can’t get to one place and one accord without being present. Faithfulness brought vision, which brought possibility, which allowed 120 to experience a miraculous moment which would lead to a moment in Acts 17 when a society said, “these are they who have turned the world upside down. A question. How can you be aligned with the passion and heart of your pastors and the Spirit if you aren’t present? Over the past six weeks at Life we have cast vision on how to live a blessed life. Beyond the teaching of being financially faithful, we have talked about the importance of expanding your vision. Currently, Mary is leading a powerful study by Beth Moore called Entrusted. She spent days choosing the series, prays and studies each week, hoping ladies will catch the vision that Beth Moore is communicating. The adversary is subtle, he knows the power of “being present.” He understands when people aren’t present, they can never catch their pastors’ vision. A few have legitimist excuses, you live far from the church, but for others, it is simply a matter of priorities. What causes people to become discontent or drift? Most times it’s not sin, simply not being connected. It isn’t a lack of vision that will cause some to fade, merely a lack of being present.
Same health club, same routine, but we were not ready for what awaited us this day. We hopped on our ellipticals and began our half hour journey to nowhere. As we’re walking, I begin to take inventory of those around us. First, I notice a man in front of us, probably mid-forties, in full business casual on the treadmill, he’s kick’ in it in what appears to be Sketchers, khaki pants with a belt, and a long sleeve polo. I give a head motion to Mary, and there’s instant laughter. Trying to gain composure, we look to our right and see a young lady on a treadmill, she’s wearing earbuds, gray sweatpants, a pink sweater, and a toboggan. The toboggan seems a tad strange, but it’s the fashion statement of the day, so we roll with it. What catches our attention is what happens next, within seconds after noticing her, she breaks out into full Michael Jackson on her treadmill. I’m now a tad stunned. Not to be a gawker, I look to the right of her to see someone who should not be wearing a two-piece workout outfit. She too is startled and staring at Michael Jackson in a toboggan doing her thing. Suddenly, as not to be outdone, she turns around backwards and attempts to run on her treadmill, thankfully this only last a few seconds, and she wisely decides to walk backwards instead. Don’t understand the purpose, but to each their own. Finally, trying to bring some semblance and normalcy back to the day, I look down our row to see a man going full speed on his elliptical with a towel covering his entire head…he sees nothing. Whether this is intentional we will never know. I continue to walk and think, I get the man with the towel on his head. My point in all this. Sometimes it’s just good to do your thing, keep on walking, and live for another day.
Jim Valvano, lovingly nicknamed Jimmy V, was a basketball coach who has become an inspiration too many. He bounced around several universities before eventually coaching the NC State Wolfpack in the 80’s. In 1983, Valvano’s team won the NCAA Championship, a victory that probably is the greatest Cinderella story in college basketball history. In 1992, Valvano was diagnosed with cancer and in March of 1993, nine weeks before his death, Valvano spoke at the ESPY Awards and delivered one of the most inspirational speeches you will ever hear. Here are just a few of Jimmy V quotes. I hope they inspire you to live with tenacity.
- “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”
- “Be a dreamer. If you don’t know how to dream, you’re dead.”
- “The greatest gift you can give your children is to believe in them.”
- “Life changes when you least expect it to. The future is uncertain. So, seize this day, seize this moment, and make the most of it.”
- “Nothing has ever been accomplished in any walk of life without enthusiasm, without motivation, and without perseverance.”
- “Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul.”
- “In every single day, in every walk of life, ordinary people do extraordinary things. Ordinary People accomplish extraordinary things.”
- “Know where you have been, where you are now and where you want to be.”
- “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”
You can read more quotes from Jimmy V at everydaypower.com/jimmy-v-quotes/
As a kid my mom would take us to downtown Noblesville to watch people. I don’t know where the idea came from, or what we were looking for, we just observed people as they shopped. It wasn’t as if we had a lot of other options; televisions were black and white and a little larger than an iWatch, and life ran about as fast as a turtle. I remember taking my sister to the mall to watch people. We observed their expressions, remarked on what we thought they were thinking, and laughed, more at our comments than the people. It all seems weird now, but back then it was our entertainment. My daughter Risa got in “watching” at an early age. I was working on a pipe in the bathroom when she walked in and asked, “daddy, do you need a watcher?” A tad confused, I inquired, “Risa, what is a watcher?” She said, “you know dad, someone to watch you work.” I said sure and she watched…and asked another dozen questions or so. Being an observer of people and life and can bring amazing opportunities and insights. In Acts 17 Paul observed the people of Athens. After watching them, he commented, “I had observed that you are religious people,” he then went on to introduce them to Jesus. He challenged the Philippians to observe those who walk correctly and follow their pattern. Even Jesus told us to “watch that we be not deceived.” This holiday season become a watcher. Observe people who may be in need. Watch for the waitress who seems distraught or discouraged. Listen to the co-worker who is overwhelmed with life. Be sensitive, ask God to give you the right words, and be a source of encouragement. Being like Jesus doesn’t mean pushing religion, being condensing or judgmental, it does mean being willing to take time, listen and care for someone who needs to be introduced to Jesus.
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!
How often do you read your Bible? Every day? Once a week? A couple times a month? Never? I ask because a person that doesn’t read their Bible regularly, particularly a person who calls themselves a Christian, is a danger to the kingdom of God. Why? Several reasons. First, if a person is not reading their Bible, it means they are not in an intimate relationship with Jesus. To know Jesus, we should want to know His Word. There should be a passion to find out ways to know him better, to understand His values, principles and what His plans are. It’s through the Bible that God speaks to us. Second, a person who is not reading their Bible has no idea of what the Bible says, they can’t define right and wrong, are confused by cultural challenges, and they are entertained by messages that are more about pop culture and trendy concepts. Without reading our Bible we define morality and Biblical values based on popular opinion or the latest Christian trend. This allows churches and ministers to say anything to their audience. Simply put, if an audience isn’t reading their Bible, there is no accountability for that church or its ministers. Finally, when people don’t read their Bible, Christianity can be redefined. There becomes confusion. People begins to question what it means to be a Christian. In the lives of Christians, whose life are not based in the Word of God, one can be lgbt, support abortion, have loose morals, abuse substances, watch questionable programing and dress inappropriately and feel no conviction, guilt, or remorse. Without the Word of God as our compass and final source of authority, we have worthless Christianity that has no more value than those who live without Christ. As we work through the Month of the Family, make a fresh commitment to spending time reading your Bible and building its importance in your family.
There is only one book that I ever remember my dad reading. I’d see it open on the kitchen table during his devotion or laying open on his lap as he was preparing for his next sermon. In pictures you’d see it proudly tucked under his arm. The Bible was his strength. It was priceless to him. His Bible is etched in my memory, and its left a profound impression on my life. With Father’s Day approaching I began to think about his Bible. I began the search to find out which of my brothers or sisters had inherited his brown, leather Bible, worn from many hours of reading and teaching from it. Most thought my oldest brother was the lucky recipient. It wasn’t him. We went down the line from the oldest to the youngest; all eleven of us were asked. I was devastated to find out no one knew what had happened to his Bible nor did any of them have it in their possession. I was anxious to see how marked up it was and to look at the worn pages. I wanted to see if he had written along the margins. Unfortunately, his Bible is gone. Unless a miracle happens, we will never see it again, except for in pictures. As we celebrate this Father’s Day, if you were asked, what is your favorite book, what would your answer be? With all the amazing books out there, let it always be said that your Bible is your most treasured asset. Don’t let it go missing. You will never regret it and hopefully your kids will treasure it when your life has ended and say, “my dad loved this book the most.” To my hero, my dad, thank you for leaving an example of loving the Bible, and leaving me memories that will last the rest of my life.
Coming from a family of eleven there wasn’t much time for personal attention from mom. One evening she was left in the car, her dad got up the next morning, left for work and when she woke up, she found herself in a parking lot trying to find her dad. She was 18 when her dad left this life, cancer took him away in the prime of his life. Soon after his passing she jetted off to college in California and never looked back. So, when she became a mom, she didn’t exactly have the perfect blueprint of what it took to be a great mom. But like most other areas of her life, she took it on with passion and grace. She would rise early for prayer, and by the time her kids got up, their clothes were laid out and there was a hot breakfast waiting for them. She was a part of their school activities, went on field trips and eventually worked in the schools where her kids were attending just to be close. Many days hot chocolate chip cookies and a cold glass of milk were waiting when her kids got home. The kids loved her amazing dinners and knew there would always be time to talk about their highs, lows and funnies. She made life fun. Whether a water slide in the back yard, a bike ride or some new fun place to experience, she made it happen for her kids. Now that she is older and her daughter is married, I watch as her daughter tries to emulate her. Her daughter has a blueprint and wants to be just like her, and her son longs to find a wife that reminds him of her. Today I honor our first lady and mom, Mary Hudson. Thank you for your example to our kids and the church you serve. Proverbs 31:29 says it well, “Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.”
It had started out as a quiet morning. I was doing some reading when Mary’s phone rang. It was our next-door neighbor, and I could hear the panic in her voice as she spoke with Mary. I was quickly handed the phone and before I could get a word out, she frantically screams, I need you to come over, my dog has brought a squirrel in the house. I quickly grabbed a small box and spade and headed over to her house, trying to formulate a mental plan of how I was going to get the squirrel out. When I arrive, the door is open, panic is on her face and she is screaming, “he’s taken it upstairs, he’s taken it to my daughters’ room.” I headed up the stairs, trying to navigate a home I had never been in, reluctantly looking for a dog and a squirrel. Finally finding the room, I’m confronted with a dog laying on her daughters’ bed with the squirrel in his mouth. Needless to say, it’s not a pretty picture and its evident the dog is not letting go of the squirrel. Our neighbor is now screaming at decibels that are near fire alarm level, I realize the box and spade are not an option and somehow, I’ve got to get the dog to take the squirrel outside. By the grace of God, the word “treat” comes to mind and as soon as I say it, I have the dog’s attention. He quickly bolts off the bed and follows me down the stairs and out the door. Success! The squirrel has left the house and I am forever a hero to our neighbor. Later, reflecting on the event I thought how the event mirrors how we should react when something unpleasing to God gets in our life. We should have the same panic and same attitude. Get it out and get it out now! No option! No compromise!
Stop the rush! Enjoy the journey! Too often we are so hurried to get to our destination that we miss invaluable experiences along the way. Recently we took a day trip, no particular destination, our only goal, to find a good lunch place. After finding a good taco joint, we meandered home. We had the rest of the afternoon, so nothing was off limits. We went by a church where we were nearly elected 20 years ago. We were amazed by the church updates but more so by the growth of the area. A restaurant that had set in the middle of a wheat field was now surrounded by urban growth. Continuing the journey home, we saw a sign that said Henryville, the name intrigued us, so we got off to explore. It was a wasted ten minutes, but from here forward we won’t wonder about what is in Henryville. Later, we saw two signs near Scottsville, one said Midwest’s largest McDonalds and the other was about goat milk and soap. So, we got off, we drove past the McDonald’s and wasn’t impressed. The goat farm was about a 2-acre area that was closed for the day, but we saw enough to understood we hadn’t missed much and didn’t have to come back. One might say we wasted a day, but we look at it differently. The “enjoy the journey” moment caused us to reflect on how God shapes our lives even when we’re not totally aware. It made us ask questions we would have likely never asked? What would life looked life if we had been elected there? What would have happened in Fishers, would there be a church at 11616 today? How would our family and ministry be different? All questions that got asked because we stopped the rush and enjoyed the moment. A simple suggestion today. Get off the hamster wheel once in a while and enjoy the journey. At the very least you’ll learn you don’t have to stop at Henryville.
His name is Judah. He comes from good stock. David and Keah Cuautle have been with us at Life from its inception. Wednesday, after bible study Judah ran up to me, we fist bump, and he says, ‘my name is in the Bible.” Walking down the aisle we continue to talk and sensing he is really wanting to connect; I sat down and continued the conversation. He continues telling me about his name, he lets me know that the tribe he is named after, nearly wiped out the entire tribe of Dan. He was very impressed by this fact. I asked, “did you know Judah led Israel into battle? You’re a leader.” His response was classic. He said, “well, I don’t know about that, not too many people seem to listen to me.” I followed up with, “when you’re at school and it’s time for recess and you suggest something, do people do it?” Now seeming rather frustrated and agitated, he responds with, “well I’m always telling people what to do but no one seems to listen.” I couldn’t resist, it just came out, I said, “welcome to leadership Judah, welcome to leadership.” By this point he was finished and off to another person. I hear his next conversation and it starts the same way, “hi, my name is Judah, my name is in the bible…” So, what’s my point? Don’t miss important people and moments. I nearly missed the moment, but a small voice said, stop and listen. I’m glad I did. He got to share something very important about himself with me and I got a reminder of the challenges of leadership. Simply put, don’t miss big moments that seem small, you might miss something important.
David is called, “the man after God’s own heart.” An amazing proclamation considering his life was anything but perfect. He was a man who failed and a man who seemed to live on an emotional yo-yo. He was a man who committed adultery and murdered her husband to cover up his lust. So, what is it that causes David to be called the man after God’s own heart? There are many opinions, and I’m not here to debate all the possibilities, but for me, it was that David’s heart was tender toward God. David is the only man in scripture that is described as having a heart that was smote; troubled or bothered by his sin. We get a glimpse of David’s heart when he is in hiding from Saul. He has been chased. He is weary, tired and dirty. His reputation and life seem to have been destroyed. He is living in hiding. He lives on the run and is constantly fearing for his life. It’s during this season we get a photograph of David’s heart. Saul comes into a cave where David and his men are hiding. David has a moment of opportunity to dispose of Saul. David’s men watch as he ever so slowly creeps up towards Saul, but instead of cutting his neck, he cuts the corner off of Saul’s robe. The men are left in shock and awe. When he returns to his men, I imagine they are setting in stunned silence. Finally, the questions come at David like a barrage of bullets. Why didn’t you take him out? What were you thinking? You had the perfect opportunity? His character and his answer leave his men more stunned than his actions. Tears begin to roll down his face as he says, I couldn’t touch him, he is God’s anointed. Then they watch as he goes out to the edge of the cave and calls out to Saul. He’s holding the piece of cloth he had cut; he bows to the ground and weeps as he says to Saul, “I could have killed you, but God said no.” Simply touching God’s chosen, smote, or better, troubled, bothered, broke and pained David’s heart. To have a heart like that is what every Christian should pray. May I ask? What smites your heart? What troubles you? What causes us to set down and cry? What causes us to weep bitterly? God, give us hearts that are tender. God, give us hearts that confess and weep when we’ve done wrong. God, give us hearts that are bothered by what bothers you. God, let our hearts be bothered when we settle for less than what you have us for us.
I believe she bragged. Why? Because that is what mom’s do. She had been there from the beginning. She cradled Him when He was born. She was there when He took His first steps and said His first words. She had agonized when He got separated from the caravan at the age of twelve. And if I know anything, I know there is no way anyone rested in the camp until she found her son. She was there when He turned water into wine, his first public miracle; in fact, she was the reason He had to show His power. She knew who He was and what He could do, Mary, like all moms, always know what their kids are capable of. Though she had raised Him, she had to marvel at His teaching, and was likely overwhelmed by His miracles. She was not God; she was a mom from Nazareth. When they cheered and followed Him, she was proud. When they jeered and accused Him, she was hurt. But nothing could have prepared her for that fateful day we call, “Good Friday.” For Mary, that Friday was anything but good, it was horrible. People were cruel, and His death was more than she could bare. But today, it’s 28 days after Easter and she is bragging. Not a day would pass that she didn’t share the news, have you heard about my son? The one they crucified. He came back to life! He’s alive. I’ve touched Him, talked with Him and ate meals with Him. No one can brag like a mom. No one has a heart like a woman who takes on the role of mom. Women who take on the role of mom are the greatest investors in the future, of the next generation. They are the ones who teach faith, build character and give hope. They can discipline, encourage and inspire all at the same time. And while that it is impressive in itself, they do it with tenderness and with a smile. To every woman who has accepted the role of mom, who makes the sacrifices, and loves unconditionally, thank you. You are the hope for every tomorrow, the creator of dreams and the catalyst for the future. Many positions and roles may be created for women, but none will ever be as important, valuable and powerful as being a mom. Today we celebrate, honor and give praise to one of God’s greatest gifts. Moms!
Three blue eggs. Mary and I have been observing them almost daily since the middle of March. Being in “stay at home mode” has allowed us to keep tabs on the process, and it is a process. Momma robin is persistent, faithful and determined. The progression is really quite amazing. At some point her body told her she is going to produce eggs. Immediately she went into search mode and found the right tree. One where she and her eggs would feel safe from predators. One that would support her nest for the duration. It would have to stand against the elements. Finally, it had to be durable, something that could stand the test of time and allow her to be undisturbed. It just so happened that she chose a tree that was right outside our family room window. Once she found her tree, the building process began. Twig by twig, grass and mud were brought to the tree. Finally, after about a week, the nest was ready. Then, one morning, they were there, three bright blue eggs. Since that day she has rarely left the nest. She has been there when it’s cold, when there were storms and high winds and even when the day was sunny, and the weather was perfect. She stayed, setting on her nest. Occasionally we will get too close, and she takes flight. From a nearby tree she chirps loudly, letting us know she’s watching. Once it is safe, she returns and sets. How long will it last? We really don’t know; she is there for the duration. Seeing this process over the past two months has been fascinating and also has brought a challenge. It begs the question. What are we committed to? What are we building that would cause us to be as persistent, faithful and determined? Shouldn’t our homes be much like the robins? Are we being careful about what we build into our lives? Shouldn’t our homes be safe places that are protected from the elements of this world? While we can’t control everything that goes on around us, we should be building safe places for our families. Finally, do we have determination? Determination to do whatever it takes to make sure we protect what God has given us. He has given us salvation, His grace and mercy, His Spirit, and sometimes I’m afraid we don’t value it. Determination says, “nothing shall separate me from the love of God.” It says, “we will never leave Him or forsake Him.” Determination is passion that is so passionate that it will causes us to be like Jesus disciples. Once cowards, they became so committed, that they died as martyrs. It is like Paul said, “I must know Him.” Back to our bird, when does it all end? She really doesn’t know, but she is committed to the process and one day she will get her reward. Three beautiful robins. What is true of momma robin is true for us. We don’t know when God will return, but we do know this, “one day we will be like Him.” Live life with persistence, passion and determination. One day it will be worth it all.
Feeling alone? You’re not alone. One of the most difficult parts of the COVID-19 pandemic is that so many are dealing with the feeling of loneliness. There are so many segments of society who are experiencing the emptiness of connection. We have senior citizens who are being extra careful to avoid social interactions. Widows and widowers are feeling more abandoned than ever. Singles and those who have divorced are dealing with a newfound isolation. While loneliness is difficult, may I suggest it might be where God wants us to be. It’s in alone times when we often hear God’s voice and see His greatness. It’s Abraham walking up a hill with his son, alone with his thoughts and what God has asked him to do. But it’s in that alone time that he sees God step up. Laying Isaac on the altar, raising the knife to sacrifice his son, God steps in, grabs the arm of Abraham and the rest of the story is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It’s Daniel, standing up for God, and being rewarded by getting to stand between two guards, and thrust into a lion’s den. The door shuts behind him and he now stands alone in fear, uncertainty and a den full of lions. What he didn’t see was that God had stepped into the den of lions with him. As Daniel sleeps, so do the lions. God is glorified and Daniel is never the same. Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego are thrust into a fiery furnace, certain that their lives are over, they are unaware that God had stepped in too. Their foe sees “a fourth man in the fire, calls them out and they experience the miraculous transformation of a heathen nation that will say, “the Lord, He is God.” Elijah, overwhelmed by the discouraging events of the day says, “I alone am left, and they (my adversaries) seek my life,” but what he didn’t understand was this was not the end of his life, but the beginning of a whole new dimension. God stepped in and overwhelming fear is met by an overwhelming God. I want to challenge you today, don’t be dazed by the feeling of loneliness. It may be that God has brought you to a place called alone so that you can see Him in His greatness and your life in a who new dimension. Alone is where God works best. Alone is when you done your best, you’re at the end of your rope and hope seems lost, but that’s often when God steps up and steps in. When you feel alone, know this, you are alone with God.
Just over a week ago we would have been watching “One Shining Moment,” the culmination of the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. It’s a video collage of the exhilarating winning moments and crushing defeats during the tournament. One moment you can be the hero and the next day have your face in a towel, crying that it all over. Do you ever wonder if you will ever have a defining moment or if you’ve missed your “one shining moment?” What about your defining moment in Christ?
This week I was reflecting on the ebbs and flows of Simon Peter’s life. His first encounter with Jesus was on a seashore where he is fishing, and Jesus invites him to become a fisher of men. We would definitely call that a defining moment, from a fisherman to a follower of Jesus. Another shining moment is when Jesus ask, “who does men say that I am?” Simon Peter says, “you are the Christ, the son of the living God.” Jesus commends Simon Peter and give him the keys to the kingdom. We would imagine that Simon Peter lived on that moment for a while. In another moment, not nearly as gratifying, Jesus calls Simon Peter, “Satan” and tells him to get behind him. Had Simon Peter allowed that moment to define him, it could have crushed him and caused him to walk away. If that moment doesn’t crush him, how about the three times he denies Jesus as he is being crucified? He curses, denies and runs. A defining moment none of us would want to remember. Yet Simon Peter survives and stands in what many would call his highest moment, preaching the message of repentance on the Day of Pentecost. We would likely call that, his “One Shining Moment.” But there was more to come. Simon Peter has a bias, he is only preaching the Gospel to Jews, but in a moment on a roof top and an invitation to Cornelius’ house, he opens to Gospel to the world. His shadow will heal people, he will write two personal books of the Bible and help Mark pen his book. While he likely did not realize it, those writings would impact millions of people. Finally, maybe his defining moment was hanging upside down on a cross, counting himself unworthy to die in the same fashion as his Savior. So many moments, so many things that could be his defining moment. But may I suggest this. That his defining moment was when he said yes to Jesus. That’s when his life, his world and his destiny changed.
Your defining moment? It will not be when you do something spectacular or amazing. It won’t be a failure or mistake that might seem insurmountable. Your defining moment? The moment you say yes to Jesus. That’s when everything in your life, whether you understand it or not, begins to work for your good. Your “yes” to Jesus is the beginning of the best days of the rest of your life.
Empty. It’s not a word we necessarily like. Running late, we hop in the car, look at the gas gauge and it’s on empty. You get a bowl out of the cabinet, get the milk out and go to grab your favorite box of cereal, only to find someone has left a nearly empty box in the cabinet. Ever been in a relationship that felt empty? It seems no matter how much you pour into the relationship, somehow it still feels empty. I must admit that there are times in my own life I feel like I’m running on empty. Empty, it means containing nothing, vacant or unoccupied, and while the word often leaves us frustrated, there is one instance where we are thankful for empty. Easter, the one moment we celebrate empty. A broken and empty hearted Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James are taking spices to anoint Jesus’ body and we they get there, they are met with the unfathomable, the stone is rolled away and a tomb that is empty. Met by an angel they hear the words we will forever celebrate, “He is not here, He has risen.” It’s the one instance when empty means full. An empty tomb means a resurrected savior. An empty tomb means that death, hell and the grave has been defeated. An empty tomb means the blood of Jesus has power over the power of sin. An empty tomb means we have access to God; to His grace, mercy and love. An empty tomb means our lives can be full of His Spirit, joy unspeakable and unlimited possibilities. An empty tomb means we can look forward to an eternal life. My life is full because of an empty tomb. Easter. An empty tomb. The one moment when empty means full!
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.
If you ever get a chance to go into downtown Noblesville, make sure that one of your stops is Alexander’s Ice Cream Shop. Nestled between boutiques and all kinds of knickknack shops, you’ll find 36 different flavors of ice creams. I can’t tell you exactly when we made our first visit, but once we did, we never stopped. Over the years the Hudson family spent hours riding bikes and often our journey would take us into Noblesville. We traveled along the White River, through Forest Park, but we all knew our objective was Alexander’s Ice Cream on the square. It has an old-fashioned soda shop feel with nearly every flavor you can imagine; Super Friends, Peanut Butter Cup, Turtle Trails, Rocky Road, Wild Black Cherry, Elephant Ear and Southern Butter Pecan. Risa always seemed to get Super Friends, Gentry’s favorite was Cookie Dough and Mary always seemed to try something different, though Pralines and Cream seemed to be one of her favorites. I often leaned toward Peanut Butter Cup. You may have noticed that I didn’t mention vanilla, not because they didn’t serve it, but because in all the years we’ve gone I don’t know if any of us ever ask for it, nor do I recall anyone else getting vanilla. I’m not sure why, but my guess is that there are so many other bold and crazy flavors. Vanilla is just that, vanilla, and unless you dress it up with some sprinkles, candy, cookies or fruit, it’s just, well, boring. Who would want boring with so many choices?
As we are dealing with a dynamic shift in life, schools being shut down, working from home and our families being shut in, let me encourage you not to let life become vanilla. While life has slowed, we’re not quarantined from being creative. Don’t allow your life to become vanilla and boring. Just like vanilla ice cream, we have a choice to dress our day up and do something different. Add a sprinkle of surprise or a topping of joy to your family’s day. Do something different, be creative. Vanilla doesn’t have to be the flavor of the day. Have an exercise day, a craft day. Paint a room. Start a puzzle. Create a photo scrapbook. Cook together as a family. Likewise, I encourage you, don’t do vanilla Christianity. Do an online bible study, start you’re own online prayer group or create a prayer walk. Have a day where you ask God for nothing, a day you pray a blessing over everyone you know and maybe a day where you just give thanks; do anything but be vanilla in prayer. Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” In other words, make today a great day! Wake up tomorrow and tell God you want to skip the vanilla, order up a Super Friends or Elephant Ear or Turtle Trails kind of day.
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.
My early days with music was a transistor radio on warm summer days and a record player at night. A component stereo with a hifi-record player was a sure sign that you had arrived, as long as your vinyl didn’t have a scratch. Add a double cassette recorder to a 125-watt stereo amp and you could rock a room. There’s nothing like Andre Crouch at 100-watts in a 10×10 bedroom. I thought I had arrived when I hopped on my bike, took off with headphones in my ears and a Sony Walkman attached to my hip jamming to Michael W. Smith. You don’t know how much you’ve been cheated in life if you haven’t used a pencil to straighten out a cassette tape or spent a few hours digging tape out of an 8-track player. Thankfully, CD’s brought a new dimension to music, digital. Within a few years, digital went from CD’s to iPods, Spotify and a plethora of ways to get music. Whether it’s been radios, record players, stereos, boom boxes, Walkman’s, 8-track players, CD players, iPods or Spotify; the purpose has always been the same, music. While the methods of delivery have changed, music is an important part of our lives. Why? Music stirs emotions and brings hope to the heart. Music brings a frenzy to a gym, romance to a room and passion to prayer. Paul said, “speak to yourself in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” and David said, ”sing a new song to the Lord.” It doesn’t matter what generation or device; music brings us into God’s presence. Get your favorite device, get your spiritual songs or playlist and get into God’s presence and get encouraged!
Life altering prayers. They’re what Biblical characters prayed that marked them as heroes of the faith. Moses asked God to show him His glory. David asked God to search and cleanse him. Isaiah saw God high and lifted up and said, “send me.” Paul said, “I die daily.” These men prayed bold and life changing prayers. We recently finished a powerful series called, “Mess Me Up Prayers.” The first prayer was simply, God search me. Like a virus protection program running in the background of your computer, when we pray God search me, we’re asking God to keep us free of weights and sins that cause us to be sluggish spiritually. The second prayer was break me. Break me of my carnal ways, help me live humbly before you God. It is John’s prayer prayed in us daily, “He must increase, and I must decrease.” Praying this prayer frees us of the cumbersome struggles we have and frees us to live in the freedom of God’s grace and mercy. Finally, after praying search me and break me, we can pray, “God spend me, send me, use me. This prayer is an indication we’ve moved from selfish to selfless. No longer consumed with our agendas and ideas, we’ve moved to where we see success in what we accomplish for God. It’s we can pray this prayer we find peace, happiness and joy. Looking to move to a new level in God? I challenge you to pray these life altering prayers. It will take courage, but if we are willing it will take us to new dimensions in our walk with God. Start today. Pray God search me, God break me, God spend me.
The average American consumes 150 lbs. of sugar each year. Yes. 150 pounds! On average, 80% of the foods we eat contains sugar. Even when we order many of the vegetables in restaurants, they have added sugar, for flavoring. There are very few recipes that don’t involve adding at least a teaspoon of sugar. When we see numbers on packages or menus, they seem small and insignificant, but are you aware that “just 4 grams of sugar” is equal to a teaspoon. So, when we see something that says only 10 grams of sugar, we think, that’s not very much and proceed to eat whatever it is, not realizing what we just ate was equal to 2½ teaspoons of sugar. A little here and a little there and at the end of the year, boom! 150 lbs. My study on sugar got me thinking, what if the average Christian would just add “just a little bit of Jesus” to everything we do? Add a little bit of Jesus, say a few minutes of prayer or some Bible verses, to your day before your kids go off to school and you go off to work. What if we added just a little bit of Jesus, say like, God let me be used for you today, spend me on someone, before we headed off to Target, the mall or out to eat. What if we became intentional about adding a little bit of Jesus to everything we do? What difference could it make. If 4 grams of sugar equals 150 lbs. in a year. What would happen in our lives, families and homes? Let’s make a commitment to adding “just add a little bit of Jesus” to everything we do.
Renovation. It’s the craze. Find a home, imagine and create. Draw plans and count cost. Take out walls and create open concept. Rearrange the kitchen; combine it with the dining room. Create a master suite with a bath that is elegant. Finally, spruce up the outside and give it an outdoor entertaining space. And best of all, it all gets done in one hour! Or so it appears. The reality is that it takes a lot more time and there are more problems than anticipated. Structural issues, old wiring and hidden surprises in the walls create delays and add cost. In the end, though there have been struggles, a beautiful home comes together. The first look always seems to involve a family crying and overjoyed as they view their dream home. What is true of the renovation of a home is also true in the renovation of a soul. When God sees broken lives, He also sees potential. Long ago He purchased any life that would welcome Him. He knew that we had structural issues; a tendency to lie, lust and fail. Yet, He said, I can make something amazing. Simon Peter, a salty fisherman is turned into a powerful preacher. Paul, a broken and angry man is transformed into a missionary that will change the world. It doesn’t happen in a minute. For Simon Peter, it took three years with God in flesh. For Paul, it would take an experience with Stephen and years in a desert. You are a project, purchased by God. It is not yet known what we will become, but this we know, we will be like Him. Have faith in God, your project manager. He makes broken beautiful.