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!
Thank you, Jesus. Above all, we give thanks that the God that created all, robed himself in flesh. He came and dwelt among us, was crucified, resurrected and ascended into heaven creating a way that we could have eternal life. We give thanks for His love, mercy and grace. There is no sin that is too great and no place His grace and mercy cannot get to. There is always hope. We acknowledge and give thanks that God provides for us. He meets our needs of food, water, shelter and clothing. While we may not have everything we want, we are blessed with provision. Beyond meeting our needs, “He daily loads us with benefits,” as David says in Psalm 68. Many of our lives are filled with blessings and luxuries that makes life so much easier than many. We give thanks that God looks over us. As Jeremiah 29 says, “He knows the plans He has for us, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” While life is full of hardships and difficulties, we are blessed to have a God that knows our ways and goes through them with us. We look forward in expectation and thanks, knowing that if we obey His Word and trust His plan, we will share an eternal life with people of the ages, family and friends. Our future home is a land filled with mansions and streets of gold. It is a place filled with joy, happiness and worship. There is no more pain, sickness or death. No more sin and evil. It is where will meet Jesus again. Thank you, Jesus.
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!
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!
Under Construction. It’s a sign that we hate to see when we’re traveling. Whether we’re headed to work or on a trip we know it means long waits and rude drivers. See the sign on a building and you know there’s temporary lights and walls and plenty of dry wall dust. While we hate to see those “Under Construction” signs, they are a sign of life and progress. It means something is growing, there is expansion going on or improvements being made. While we hate the process, we love the results. Whether a road with smooth pavement, a new shopping environment, or spacious addition, they all bring expectation and excitement. We’re willing to except that in real world life, we’re often less accepting when it comes to the human factor, but the fact is, we are all under construction. In reality, we should all have signs, maybe t-shirts, that say, “pardon our mess, under construction.” God hints at it in Jeremiah 29:11 when He says, “I know the plans I have for you.” Plans, that means a project, that construction is coming! Paul puts it another way in Philippians 1:6, “He who has begun a good work in you shall perform it.” What is Paul saying? You’re not finished yet. You are in process. So, pardon my mess, put on a hard hat and help, stop judging me in the middle of my construction. God is in the middle of making something awesome.
Weeds. You don’t have to plant them, water them or care for them in any way. They just grow; anywhere, anytime, anyplace. I planted a garden and now I’m attempting to grow a garden. I’ve pulled weeds, tilled soil, bought garden soil, planted plants and kept them watered. This week I walked out to my garden and in just a few days the weeds had grown larger than my plants. What I’ve come to understand is that I have to be intentional about my garden. I have to regularly water it, pull the weeds and protect from insects and animals. What’s true in the natural is also true in the spiritual. It takes nothing for the cares of life, temptation and sins take over our life. They just show up. To have a spiritual life we must be as meticulous as we are with a garden. The soil of our soul must be enriched with the atmosphere of prayer and praise. We must plant the Word of God in our heart and keep it in our heart. David said, thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you. We must be committed to staying filled with the Holy Spirit. It is the power that fuels our spiritual growth and brings out the fruit and the gifts of the Spirit. Be intentional, as Paul said in Ephesians 5:18, “be filled with the Spirit.”
Have you ever felt like you had so little to offer? Ever felt like you got the short stick when it comes to gifts or talents? Have you ever disqualified yourself? You are not alone. When God called Moses at the burning bush, Moses gave God four reasons for why he was not qualified. When Elijah asked for a cake, the widow said we have enough for my son an myself and then we’re going to perish. When Jesus is teaching a multitude of people when the disciples come to Jesus saying you need send the people away, we’ve searched, and all we have is five loaves and two fish. In each case God said just give thanks for what you have and give it to me. It’s the biblical principle of multiplication. God asked Moses, what do you have? Moses says, all I have is a stick. God said, that will do. The widow says all we have is some meal and oil and the prophet blessed it by the power of God and oil and meal never run out. When the disciples brought the sack lunch to Jesus, He gave thanks for what was provided and then He multiplied it. The principle is simple, focus on what you do have, acknowledge and give thanks for what God has provided, give it to Jesus and let him multiply it.
The action of one person often changes the direction and destiny for many. This is exemplified by God coming to earth robed in flesh, living with the humanity He created, going to the cross and resurrecting. That courageous act changed everything about what we do, who we are and and our eternal destination. The Bible is filled with examples of people who have breakthrough moments that impact cities, nations and generations. Moses breaks through his past failure to lead a nation out of Egypt and changes the destiny of a nation. David breaks through the fear of his brothers and army to lead them to a victory over the Philistines. The three Hebrew children break through the intimidation of idolatry to bring a heathen nation to say, “the Lord, He is God.” Simon Peter breaks through his denial of Christ to preach the message that still lives today and Paul breaks through his theology, experiences the power of the Spirit and establishes churches throughout the world and writes 13 books of the Bible.
These stories are there to give us hope and courage to have our own breakthroughs. What if a wall you’re dealing with comes down, how might it impact you and others? Could it change your entire life? Could it change the destination of future generations in your family? Could a breakthrough in your life change the destiny of Life Connections? We have no idea of what a breakthrough in our life might do for our life, home, church and future generations. We serve the God of the breakthrough! I was inspired by a song I recently heard by Eddie James called “Breakthrough” which is quickly becoming my theme song for 2017. The words say, “walls fall down when I shout through, strongholds break when I pray through, I’m going to praise you, you are the God of the Breakthrough!” The bridge say, “You are the God of the breakthrough of my heart, mind, spirit, soul, weakness, struggle, worship, praise, when I lift and glorify His name, dance and shout.” What a powerful song and testimony. If Moses, David, the Hebrew children, Simon Peter, Paul and a host of witnesses can have breakthrough moments, why can’t we? We serve the God of the breakthrough! Let me encourage someone with barriers, walls, past failures, fear and discouragements; you are one day away from a breakthrough. What do you need to do? Pray, worship, be faithful, be obedient, yield and I absolutely believe that 2017 can be the year of breakthrough for you! You serve the God of the breakthrough!