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.
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.
The hot dry days of August have transitioned to cool nights in September. The breezes of October are beginning to blow, so it is inevitable, fall. The leaves are starting to change. Green leaves are turning yellow, orange, red and brown and soon there will be a kaleidoscope of color here in central Indiana. We’re putting out the mums, buying hay bales, adding pumpkins, and pulling out the sweaters and boots. It’s fall. Isn’t it amazing how easily we sense the changing of the seasons? Crazier still, it’s amazing how we adapt. What about the changes that are taking place in our lives, are we as aware? Unlike the change from summer to fall, too many are oblivious to the deviations that are taking place in their lives. They fail to see themselves slipping away from their time of prayer or devotion. They seem unconscious of the fact that more and more things are getting in front of their faithfulness to God and His house. Too many seem unfazed that their heart has grown calloused and cold to God’s presence and gentle voice. While we so easily see the transitions of seasons, we often miss the critical changes happening in our lives. I often wonder if Judas knew something was changing in his life. Was he aware that greed was gripping his heart? Could he feel the spirit of deception creeping into his spirit? Could he sense that he was drifting away from Jesus? People don’t go from faithful to unfaithful overnight, it is a process, like the changing of the seasons. We’ve faced a lot of changes over the past 16 months. Something is happening, and while we can’t put our finger on it, we can sense it. A word to the wise. Stay alert, aware and on guard. Be prepared for the new season.
Jesus. Right now, say His name out loud. It doesn’t have to be screamed or shouted, it can be spoken in a gentle whisper, but know this, when you say it, all creation hesitates. Every demon in hell, disease, sickness, evil and dark spirit pauses. Water waits to see if it must turn to wine, sickness waits to see if it can continue, and death waits to see if it must release its grip. Philippians 2:11 says, “that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Simply put, the name of Jesus is the most powerful word you will ever speak. We must remind ourselves often of the power in the name of Jesus, and not only be reminded of it, but choose to use His name. We must teach our kids and this generation to say the name of Jesus in any situation. It’s not a magical word, it is the word that has supreme authority. James 2:19 says, you believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. I am reminded that all Jesus did was step on the Gadarenes seashore and demons that had controlled a man and confounded a region for years, instantly cried for mercy, begging Jesus to let them go into pigs. They knew who Jesus was, His power and immediately relented in cowardness. We have access through faith, to ask anything in His name. John 14:14 says, “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” Our asking must be in alignment with His plan and purpose, it can’t be done in selfishness, but when we ask in faith, anything is possible. Where does salvation begin? By calling on the name of Jesus. Acknowledging our need for Him. It’s here we begin the journey that takes us to repentance and baptism. The name of Jesus. Say it now, say it often. Say it with confidence.
Recently the classic movie, Field of Dreams, produced in 1989 with Kevin Cosner came to life. In the movie, Cosner is at his farm when he hears a voice that says, “if you build it, they will come.” In brief, Cosner builds a diamond and one evening two teams come out of the corn field, play a game, and then disappear back into the field never to be seen again. Thursday night the movie came to life when the Chicago White Sox played the New York Yankees in front of a little over 7,000 fans in Dyersville, Iowa. It was an instant classic. Cosner walked out of the corn field toward second base tossing a baseball, turned and looks back toward center field, and suddenly White Sox and Yankee players start pouring out of the corn field onto the diamond. Talking about goose bumps! Turns out I wasn’t alone, over five and a half million people tuned in to watch the game, over three times as many viewers as for a normal game. It was truly an “if you build it, they will come moment.” The game inspired me as I thought about the purpose of Life. While there are many churches that are doing good works, we at Life are in pursuit of a move of the Spirit like in the book of Acts. A moment, an experience, that can only be defined as, “undeniable, but indescribable.” It will take lots of prayer, sacrifice and time, but it we will pursue it, it will happen, and people will come. Often people approach us with dreams they have had about Life. They’ve seen cars waiting to turn in to the campus, the auditorium filled to capacity and God’s presence moving authentically. Many days a wonder if this could be the day, the moment. What I believe is this, if we build it (pray, sacrifice, commit), the Spirit will fall, and people will come.
The woods at the Hudson home are silent. We have been blessed and highly favored. Why? Because while many here in Indiana are dealing with the singing cicadas, thus far, we have not. The cicada invading Indiana is the 17-year variety, and I guess, because they only show up every 17 years, they’ve chosen to be quite the nuisance. Since our woods have been silent, we’ve taken a few “Fishers field trips,” where it is VERY obvious when you’ve found the little critters. You instantly hear a sound that boarders somewhere between screeching of fingernails on a chalk board and a cat getting its tail stepped on. One other thing we noticed is that their eyesight isn’t too keen. They fly everywhere, and into anything, including your face, car windshield, and of course, any open window or door. To those who are reading this, know the racket and intrusion, will soon be over. By early July the little darlings will be gone for another 17 years. Cicada season brings an important question. What do you do when a “season” hits your life? You endure. Persevere. You hang on to the words of Solomon who said, “to everything there is a beginning and an ending.” To everyone who is going through a “season,” hang on! Gods got you, you will make it through. It may seem like the noise of life is excruciating and the intrusions are more than you can bare, but just keep believing and trusting in God. Stay on your knees and in the Book. He will see you through. Matthew 24:13 says it well, “but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” My solution for surviving your season may seem simple, but like dealing with cicadas, you really don’t have any other choice, save getting some good ear plugs and keeping your windows closed.
“It was on fire when I laid down on it,” that was the man’s response when asked by an investigator about the fire that had ravaged his home. His response to the investigator begs for a follow-up question, why would you lay down in a bed that was on fire? The follow-up question leaves room for the imagination to go wild as for the response you might get back. I was really tired. I didn’t think I’d get burned. It was just a small fire. Whatever the response, there is no good reason for laying down on a bed that is on fire. While we laugh at the story, in reality, many of us do things that don’t make sense. Yards away from the Promised Land, after experiencing miracle after miracle for two months, the children of Israel reject God and meander in the wilderness for 40 years. That is a “it was on fire when I laid down on it” moment. Judas, chosen to spend three- and one-half years with Jesus, God with us, watches as Jesus opens blinded eyes, deaf ears and raises the dead to life and decides to betray him for 30 pieces of silver. Definitely a “it was on fire when I laid down on it” moment. What choices are you making now that the future will make it obvious that they were unwise? Putting almost everything ahead of being faithful to God’s house, thinking it won’t make that much of a difference, that it’s not that dangerous. Investing in our kids’ extra-curricular endeavors while not valuing the importance of knowing God, Biblical doctrine and experiencing His presence. Dabbling in things that take us away from our sensitivity to God and His presence and thinking, I won’t get burned. A simple suggestion today. Don’t lay down in something that is burning.
Remembering and protecting the past is an important aspect of securing the future. If a society doesn’t protect where it’s come from and pass down what they’ve experienced, it can quickly lose its values and its way. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about the current climate in our country. History and history books are being rewritten, historical landmarks destroyed and cancel culture is taking America down a dangerous and destructive road. America is not the first culture to lose its way. Joshua 4 describes a moment after Israel had just experienced the miraculous. God had parted the Jordan River and Israel had miraculously crossed into the Promised Land. After the crossing, Joshua does something interesting. He instructs the leaders to go back into the riverbed and gather the largest stones for a memorial. The memorial was to serve as a reminder to future generations who wouldn’t remember or didn’t experience God’s miraculous work. Unfortunately, it’s just a generation or two later that a tragic epithet is written of Israel, “there was no king in Israel and every man did what was right in his own eyes.” A once feared and powerful nation became a cesspool of immorality and political correctness, that plunged into despair and misery. What happened? How did their society change so quickly? It wasn’t a powerful adversary or tragic event, it simply happened when a people forgot God, His house and His principles. They became consumed with success, status and social acceptance and in the process forgot to protect and teach about their past. The miraculous, memorial and memories all disappeared like a vapor. Memorial Day is more than the Indy 500 and the unofficial start of summer. It’s a reminder to remember. Remember our foundations and our past. Remember the fight and those who fought. Remember God and our values. It’s remembering to protect the future.
Today as we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, I ask one thing. Lord, do it again. We live in a time where culture is divided, violence is out of control and immorality is celebrated. Humanity has no cure for what ills our nations and the world. Government cannot legislate the problems away. Education cannot solve the issues by teaching. There is one solution for our world. A move of the Holy Spirit. It has to come through people who will be like the 120 who patiently waited in the Upper Room for the promise. People who are willing to sacrifice their time, give up activities and personal desires and agendas and seek the face of God. Pentecost was not a religion, organization or cult, it was a sovereign move of God, promised by Jesus just before ascending into heaven. It was not fabricated, hyped up by music or manipulated by masterful wordsmiths. It was a “suddenly” that came to desperate people crying out to God. It was a room filled with men and women of all social standings and its initial outpouring was so multicultural that it was heard in 14 languages. There were no fences, no clicks and no limitations. It fell on political figures, rich, poor, educated and uneducated. It crossed ethnic backgrounds; Jews, Greeks, Egyptians, Romans and spread throughout the world. So powerful was the move that in Acts 17 they said, “these are they who have turned the world upside down.” That is what we need today. A Pentecost that turns the world upside down, or I would say, right side up. How does it happen? It’s as simple as it was 2000 years ago. Seeking God above anything else, making prayer a priority, asking God to move on our nation and pour out the Spirit. Acts 2:39 says, the promise was for all. The only question is, are we desperate enough yet?
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.
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.
We tend to set low expectations for God. It happens when we attempt to make our plans, God’s plans. Palm Sunday is a textbook example. As people lined the street that morning, one might sense an atmosphere of high expectation. Palm branches, rugs and cloaks covered the street. Screams and cheers of Hosannah are heard along the parade route. Jesus had spoke of His kingdom, and their assumption on this day, was that He was bringing His kingdom to earth. They knew the significance of a person riding into Jerusalem on a colt; an honor given only to dignitaries. In their eyes, Jesus’ Triumphal entry was the answer to years of hopes and prayers. The oppression, abuse and rule of the Roman government was going to end, Jesus, the man of miracles, was about to set up His earthly kingdom. No more Roman rule. No more taxes to Caesar. Little did they realize how trivial their expectations were. Palm Sunday was not about a day of freedom from Rome, but about a day that would set-in motion freedom from sin, death, hell and the grave. Palm Sunday was not about God solving earthly problems, but eternal issues. Still today we undervalue our expectations for God. Israel wants deliverance from Pharaoh, God gives them a new culture and land. The lame man at the Gate Beautiful wants money, God uses His disciples to give him a miracle. Too often we get frustrated when God doesn’t answer our prayers our way. We tend to focus and pray longing for earthly issues to be solved, while God is focused on our eternal destination. Palm Sunday. I invite you to see God’s big picture; to see God and His will differently. To pray differently. Surrender your small expectations for His big plans.
A seismic world altering moment was just two weeks away. Yet, at this moment, after bringing Lazarus back to life, no one can fathom what is about to take place. The tears of joy are too overwhelming and the miracle to great. His disciples are convinced that Jesus is going to set up an earthly kingdom and can’t wait to see their place of importance. Not only had Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead but healed ten lepers of their leprosy. Jesus is immensely popular. Yet, in two weeks, the disciples will deny Him, the crowd turn on Him and He will take his last earthly breath. A lot can happen in two weeks, more than we could ever imagine. The point? Whatever you are walking through, whatever is overwhelming you, know that it can change in so quickly. In an instant, a man blind sees, a woman with a blood issue for 12 years is healed and a cripple from birth walks. Needing a miracle? Looking for a glimmer of hope? Pray one more prayer. Believe one more day. Look no further than the possibilities in Jesus. Keep believing. Keep expecting. You may be just a few days or weeks from a mind-blowing, life altering, forever changing encounter.
Jeremiah 29:11 God says, “for I know the plans I have for you… plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” If we take this verse literally, God has a specific plan for our life, and it is for good and is to give us a future that is filled with hope. If God has a plan for us, what hinders it from coming to pass? Satan, people, situations or circumstances? No. The biggest issue impeding God’s plan from happening in our life is us. Jesus lets us know His ultimate goal for all humanity in Luke 19:10 when he said, “I came to seek and save those who are lost.” That’s it. That’s the reason He robed himself in flesh, lived with the humanity He created, died on a cross, resurrected and ascended into heaven, so that everyone can be saved. But is that it? Is that His only plan for our lives? No, I believe God has a specific plan for each of us, but how? It begins by getting in alignment with God’s Spirit, getting in the flow of His purpose. For that to happen it requires that we have a hunger for His will to be accomplished in our life. It requires continually humbling, submitting and yielding to His leadership. It means being led by the Spirit and walking in the Spirit. It means as John said in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Regularly, daily, we must pray that prayer. God let Your plans, Your will increase and let mine decrease. Help me to yield my plans, ideas and concepts to yours. What awaits? Joy. Happiness. Calm. Diminishing fear and anxiety. A peace that passes all understanding. Get in the flow. Get in alignment with His Spirit and His plan. It will be life changing.
What do we do when there is a forecast of an impending snowstorm? We head to the grocery store. We load up on bread, milk, eggs and other essentials. We top off the car with fuel, head home with a trunk full of groceries, prepared for the storm. Wake up to a forecast that says rain and we grab a jacket and an umbrella. Being prepared is vital to surviving a storm, whether rain, snow or the storms of life. Why fast? Because storms are coming. It’s not a maybe or possibility, it’s not the question of if, but when will the storms hit. This year there will be unexpected job losses, sickness, emotional hurt, life disappointments and difficulties we don’t anticipate. Knowing storms are in the future, what do we do? We prepare. We pray. We fast. We make our relationship with God a priority. That’s how we prepare spiritually. Jesus went into the wilderness, full of the Spirit, but comes out in the power of the Spirit. What happened in the wilderness? He was tempted. He fasted. He came out ready for all the challenges lie ahead. Paul was converted on the Damascus Road, but before he ever preached a message, God sent him to an Arabian desert. What happened in the desert? He prayed and fasted. He was being prepared for the impending storms; shipwrecks, stonings, beatings, persecution and jail, all storms that lay in front of Paul. How did he survive? Spiritual preparation. What does 2021 hold? God only knows, but one thing I do know, there will be storms. Are you preparing? How we prepare today will determine how we handle the storms and if we will survive. Fast today because storms are coming.
The Gift of Faith. It’s a gift that we have to exercise. It’s available in any given moment and in any situation. It’s a gift that is built on belief that the Bible is true, and God will do what he says and what he has done before. We’ve circled situations because the children of Israel circled Jericho. We’ve anointed prayer clothes like the early church did. We speak in the name of Jesus because Simon Peter and John did, and our faith says, “if it happened for them, it could happen for us.” Faith sees Jesus, the miraculous more than obstacles and impossibilities. A boat full of disciples saw a storm; they saw waves and lightening, heard thunder and slapping seas, but Simon Peter saw Jesus. Suddenly, faith overrides fear and common sense is taken over by crazy faith, and before you know it, Simon Peter is walking on water. That is the essence of faith, that the impossible becomes possible and the improbable becomes probable. Faith takes what Jesus said in Matthew 19 literally, “but with God all things are possible.” How much faith do you need to see the miraculous begin to happen? Just a little. As Jesus said, “the faith of a mustard seed.” Faith is about knowing “all things are possible with God.” The challenge is simply to have faith. Faith in discouraging times, difficult times, fearful times and overwhelming times. The question is not, whether something is possible or not, rather the question is will we exercise faith. It’s the question Jesus asks in Luke 18, “when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” The Gift of Faith. Are you using yours?
What we see is important, but how we see things is even more important. Our vision determines our direction and creates an environment of success or failure. Do you generally see with faith, hope and possibility or despair, hopelessness and fear? In 1 Kings 18 Elijah has told Ahab, “there is a roar of a heavy shower.” After speaking these words, Elijah sends his servant, seven times in fact, until he finally comes back and says, “I see a cloud the size of a man’s hand.” Seeing takes faith and persistence. In Isaiah 6, after the highly popular king Uzziah dies and the nation is in moral decay, Isaiah says, “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.” In a difficult time Uzziah saw an all-powerful God able to overcome any adversary. What we see and how we see in difficult times is important. Want to have proper vision? Set the correct atmosphere. Three principles for great vision. First, make God’s Word your focus, in it you will see His plan, His power, His authority. You will see how big God is. Second, pray. In prayer we see our weakness and His vision and His strength. Finally, make God’s House a priority. When we don’t stay around people with right vision, we start seeing things the wrong way. Be around people of faith, vision, passion, excitement and worship. In 2 Kings 6, Elisha’s servant fearfully tells Elisha that they are surrounded by a large adversary, instead of being overwhelmed, Elisha prays a simple prayer to God, “God, open the eyes that he may see.” In this hour where we can become consumed by what we see at the surface level of life, my prayer is God let us see what you see. Today, I see a God who is in control, that God will never leave us or forsake us and a God who is on top of everything. What do you see?
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.
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.
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.
Gate Agent. You had one job to do. Get the people on the plane in an orderly manner. It was as simple as A-B-C, and it started out well. A call for people with tickets in Group A 1 – 60. Everyone lined up and began to board. But somehow between A and B, he got confused, distracted, overwhelmed; who knows. As the final passengers in Group A are headed to the gate and those in Group B start to line up, he flipped the switch, literally and mentally. Without calling for Group B, he moves right to Group C and flips the monitors to C. Within moments there’s chaos, confusion and frustration. Group A is still trying to board, Group B is trying to figure out what happened, and Group C is pushing toward the gate, realizing they had just got an opportunity to get a better seat. The frustration turned to tension as those who knew how the process worked, and had secured their preferable position, now were losing their seat. Now it’s chaos. May I suggest this is what sometimes happens to us who are supposed to gate keepers of our homes and families. We lose focus, bend rules, get out of the Book and before we know it our lives, families and homes are in chaos. As simple as it should have been for the Gate Agent to keep A-B-C in order, it should be for us to keep our spiritual priorities in order. Make the Gospel your life’s priority, seeking Him and His will your goal, live in obedience to His Word and make prayer a priority. One simple job. Keep the gate.
Twelve disciples. Three and a half years. They had eaten meals with Him, had fire side chats with Him, went through storms with Him, witnessed His miracles and heard Him teach and preach. With all of Jesus’ qualities and giftings, they could have asked Him to teach them anything; how to do miracles, to preach or to lead. They wanted one thing. Jesus, teach us to pray. Why? I believe they saw what we often fail to see and understand. Jesus’ strength, power and faith came by being in alignment with Heaven’s plan. While He was fully God, He was also fully man. Prayer kept Jesus focused, kept Him on task and allowed Him to be sensitive to the needs that would come His way each day. Prayer kept Jesus’ agenda on the Kingdom. When He went into the wilderness, He prayed. Before He fed the 5000, He prayed. Before meeting the disciples in the storm, He prayed. When Calvary was in His view, He went to the garden and prayed. The disciples took notice and they understood if they were to accomplish anything in the Kingdom, more than anything else, they needed the ability to pray. His teaching worked; it became an engrafted part of the disciple’s spiritual DNA. They were in prayer when there was a “suddenly” in the upper room. They were on their way to pray when the spirit prompted them to pray for a lame man. After jail time and a confrontation with the Sanhedrin, they prayed. The result, the place was shaken, and new boldness came to their lives. 2020 Vision. Let us understand that prayer is our greatest need. Lord, teach us to pray.
2020. A New Year. A New Decade. What will get our attention? What goals will we pursue? What cornerstones will we build our lives on? These are important questions that will determine our direction as we move into a new year and decade. If we focus and build on the structures of this world, our direction will be set toward the carnal and what the world calculates as success. If we set our hearts and minds on fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives, making Him our foundation, I believe we will see our lives, families and Life ascend to realms beyond our wildest dreams. In Acts 4, Luke says that Jesus is our chief cornerstone. In building there is a point on which every alignment goes off of. That spot, when building our lives, is Jesus. When we set Jesus as our cornerstone, making Him the center of our hearts, thoughts and purposes, everything else falls in right alignment. How do we do it? In 2 Chronicles God calls His people to humble themselves, pray, seek His face and turn toward Him. This is how we start to get in right alignment and set our year and decade off in the right direction. If one chapter could sum up Jesus’ definition of success, I would point to Matthew 6. He opens challenging us to give. He then teaches us to pray and calls us to fast. Finally, He tells us how to live in proper alignment; invest in the Spiritual and eliminate anxiety by trusting in Him. He summarizes it all by simply saying, “seek first the Kingdom.” As we open up 2020 my challenge is the same. Seek God first, make Him your priority.
Ten years ago. It was 2009 and we were preparing to step into a new decade. We were celebrating the move out of Brooks School Elementary into our new home at 11616 E. 126th Street. No more setting up and tearing down. We were proud, thankful and grateful. All 70 of us. For the first time in our short history we had a home. We had 150 chairs. We could meet on Wednesday evenings, have choir practices and we actually had rooms for kids’ classes! We thought we had arrived. Now, as we close the decade, just 10 years later, I marvel at what God has done. From 70 people to over 300 who now call Life their home, we have witness God’s faithfulness as we have shared His gospel. We have seen God do amazing things. We close out 2019 with an expanded campus and a spirit of expectancy and excellence. As we prepare to step into a new decade it seems to be just as it was in 2010, a launching pad moment. We enter 2020 with 4K cameras and live broadcast that will take our services around the globe and new seating that will give us the ability to seat nearly 500 people. What will the next 10 years be like? God only knows. What is our responsibility. The same as it was as we stepped from 2009 to 2010. To pray. To keep seeking God with all of our hearts. To ask God to do it again, to bring another outpouring of His Spirit as He did in the book of Acts. Let’s trust Him to take us further than our greatest imagination both in our own lives and at Life.