Asbury. For decades it’s been known as a place of prayer, a place of revival, a place where God visits. Yesterday we took a drive to be a part, to experience a sacred move of God. As soon as we stepped on to the campus, we felt a different atmosphere. The line to get into the building was subdued, a reverence, a quiet hush, we were entering into something like we never had. As we entered Hughes Hall, we knew we had entered a different realm, something we had never experienced before. I didn’t want to see or be seen. Instantly, I wanted to set down in my seat and fade into the fabric of the authentic and genuine presence of God, and I did. I didn’t need to speak nor hear or be heard, I simply needed to listen. Listen to the voices, listen to worship, listen to the piano…listen to the Spirit of God. In this room there are no organizations, religions, doctrines or creeds, there is one focus, Jesus. In this room it doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are, the color of your skin, your social or educational background, what you are wearing, all that matters is Jesus. We are from different states and nations, but we are one in passion, a hunger, and it’s all about Jesus. The focus is not on miracles, signs, or wonders. There is no one pushing, prodding, or commanding you to worship or respond in a certain manner. While well known Christian leaders are showing up, they are not being recognized or acknowledged, they too fade into the fabric of what is happening. There is a pureness in the room, a clean desire for God’s presence. One phrase describes the rooms atmosphere, a hunger to be in God’s pure presence. The petitions of prayers aren’t about asking, simply praises of adoring, adulation, and about the wonder and splendor of the magnificent God we serve. If there is any request, it seems to be, “God forgive us of our sins.” There is no schedule here, in fact there seems to be no time. There was a beginning, but at the moment there seems to be no ending. The next song isn’t on a piece of paper and there has been no preparation, the moment is feeble and simply follows the flow of the Spirit, like a river flowing without boundaries. There is no pressure to stand or sit, no command to raise your hands or shout, just embrace the Spirit as it is speaking to you. In this place you feel humble, small, and insignificant, God is here, and He is being high and lifted up and His train is filling the temple. If one is not comfortable, not at home here, then you won’t be at home in heaven. No man, no person is the focus. There is no fleshy singing, no singer by action or by talent is saying, “look at me.” No keyboard, guitar, or bass player drawing attention to themselves, there is a unity of focus, the glory is going to Jesus and Him alone. Even as I write it feels so unsacred, but a scribe, an author, must write down what is happening today, so we don’t get lost in living in yesterday. This generation must know of these events and of a living God. Today, here at Asbury, as in heaven, so on earth, all glory belongs to Him who sits on the throne. This is what church across America should look like. This is what America needs. Please! As they are pleading at Asbury, bring the experience to your heart and home. Our world is starving for more than an hour and fifteen minute Jesus appetizer, more than a manipulated move, or a lifeless experience. Asbury is a cry from a world hungry for an authentic experience with God.
Asbury. Quit Messing with the Narrative
Setting three rows behind the student section in Hughes Hall at Asbury University, we are witnessing something uniquely amazing. God’s Spirit is being entertained by hundreds of young men and women under the age of 25 and thousands of people from around the world have come to join them. In front of me a young man has caught my attention. Ten years ago, I would have been appalled if my daughter would have introduced him to me as someone she might be interested in spending the rest of her life with. He didn’t fit my narrative, scraggly beard, and mustache. Long hair with a short ponytail sticking through a baseball cap he’s wearing backwards. He’s wearing jeans, tennis shoes, and a sweatshirt and he has a smile that could melt butter. Some would call his attire disrespectful, but no one could deny that this guy is absolutely crazy about Jesus. He’s a yo-yo, but not in a bad way. The entire time we’ve been a part of the service he’s been standing and singing with all his heart, hands raised, setting in his chair weeping and repenting, or on the floor on his knees praying, often sobbing in brokenness or humility. When there is a call to pray with someone, he’s the first to interact with the person next to him, when there is a call to pray with anyone with their hands raised, he’s climbing over chairs, praying with as much sincerity as I’ve ever seen. When the service turns back to worship, he’s all in, totally engrossed in the moment. Suddenly, I hear him as he begins to pray in the spirit, not in a crazed way, but humbly and with so much authenticity. More than once you could sense that he was what some Christians would call, “lost in the Spirit,” overwhelmed by God’s presence. This young man is smart, sensible, solid and spiritual and he is really messing with pretty Christianity. The Pharisees of our day would surely reject him, he doesn’t fit their narrative. He doesn’t fit in the pristine Christian box of how Jesus would look or act. He wouldn’t be allowed to minister on their platforms or be a part of many ministries. I can hear them now, “nice guy, but he just doesn’t fit our narrative. Clean up, look the way we’ve designed Christianity to look, and come back and see us when you are Holy like us.” Funny, what the religious elite rejected two-thousand years ago is still rejected today. This young man makes me wonder how many of today’s “Christians” would reject Jesus and twelve ordinary men. I get the feeling Jesus and the disciples would be too messy for their narrative. After a day being a part of something very special happening in a small college in a little town in Kentucky we turn to leave. Our friend is back on the floor, weeping, sobbing, praying in the Spirit, and crying out to Jesus. My bet is he doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon, he’s got several water bottles and a small bag with some food. I’ve seen some peanut butter and crackers and some fruit snacks, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are five loaves and two fish in there. Today I’ve decided I don’t own Jesus my way, His sovereignty, and the way He moves, or who He calls and uses. If you’re brave enough, pray, “God mess with my narrative.” We are living in an hour when God is asking religious people, will it be your way or mine; your narrative or mine. The real question is how will we respond? Our world is starving for more than an hour and fifteen minute Jesus appetizer, more than a manipulated move, or a lifeless experience. Asbury is a cry from a world hungry for an authentic experience with God.
PLEASE READ: Asbury. Absorb It. Bring it Home. (Tap title to read)
Why I Believe in God. My Story
I have been a follower of Jesus since I was 15 and I have been in full-time ministry for over 35 years. I’ve spent 15 years as an instructor at a Christian College and another 20 years as pastor of Life Connections. I’ve made it a priority to consume my Bible, not to study for a class or preach a sermon, but to know God. Since a teenager, I have been a man of prayer. I made prayer, learning to call and depend on God, one of the highest priorities of teaching in my college classes and I made prayer the greatest priority of the church we pastored in Fishers. For over 10 years Mary and I spent every Saturday evening praying for our Sunday services, asking that God would have precedence over any agenda or plan that we might have. I confess that nearly all my messages came, not from books or other’s sermons, but from being at an altar on a Saturday night searching for God’s will and a word for His people. We held monthly Prayer Services at our church for years and Mary and I circled our city on the first Wednesday of every month for 13 years. I have experienced the same Spirit filled dynamic that the apostles did in the book of Acts and been in many vibrant services where I have been overwhelmed by God’s presence. I have preached thousands of messages and prepared more Bible studies for college curriculum and our church community than you can imagine. Yet, I must confess I have seasons of doubt. Moments when I question God. Moments when I wonder, is there really a God, is He real. Sorry to be so raw, but transparency has always been a part of my life and ministry.
You may ask, why or how, could someone with all the study, time in prayer, experiences, and teaching have doubts and questions. First, I’ve seen too many wonderful people face heartache, pain, sickness, disease, and death that didn’t make sense. I don’t understand kids that are abused by their parents, war hurting innocent people, torture, famine, and the tragedy of natural disasters. I question why those who do evil succeed and have wealth, and those who do right live broken and struggle to make ends meet. Condemn me if you want, I’ve preached the messages you are preaching to me as you are reading this, but sometimes still, life just doesn’t make sense and it hurts. I know Paul says, “we see through a glass darkly,” and I’ve sang “by and by when the morning comes. . . we’ll understand it better by and by.” I struggle because I’ve prayed prayers for years, not days, not weeks but years that are still in the “wait,” or “no” categories. Some were selfish but others I am confident were not. In particular, I prayed as a college instructor that my students would experience an authentic move of God’s presence, no manipulation or hype, just a sovereign move that would be life altering. From the beginning of my pastorate, I prayed for myself, my family, and our community to experience an outpouring as in the book of Acts, Azusa, or like any moment in history when God overwhelmed the world with His presence. Now, after 20 years, and turning the church over to another minister, I anguish that we never got to lead people into the experience I had prayed for so desperately. So, how do I hang on? Why do I still believe? Two moments in my life.
One was an answered prayer. The answer came after a stage four breast cancer diagnosis in my wife, Mary, in December of 2015. Unfortunately, even though we had prayed, and even saw evidence of God’s working, Mary had to have a double mastectomy. It was three days after the surgery that we got the call from our very shaken cancer doctor, the words he spoke were spoken with confusion, disbelief, yet with glee, we wept uncontrollably when we heard him say, “there is no cancer in your limp nodes, I can’t explain it, but there is nothing.” He couldn’t come up with a logical explanation, but we knew instantly that God had healed Mary. Such a complete healing that after several follow-up appointments the doctor said there will be no radiation, no chemo, no five- or ten-year medicine’s, in fact, you never have to come back. Seven years later, she has still never returned.
The second life experience is my overwhelming reason I believe. More than my book of Acts experience, my knowledge of God’s Word, or Mary’s healing, it was a moment in a prayer service. These prayers services had been happening periodically for a couple of years. They were never hyped, no B-3 organ, no healing prophet, just organic prayer by people of faith for people who were sick, broken, hurting, and desperate. In this particular service I was one of several who had been invited to pray with those who would come to the front. We had been praying for people in cycles for over an hour and as the next group made their way to the front, a young man stood in front of me, I didn’t know his name, nor his story, and I still don’t. As I began to pray over him, and in a moment, something happened, not to him, but to me. My hand was on his shoulder and suddenly I felt a rush of electricity, a fire, a burning go through my body, almost like I had been shocked. I instantly stepped back, shaking, tears in my eyes, feeling overwhelmed, and honestly, confused. I sat down and wept, still feeling energy in my body and at a total loss as to what had just happened. The evening ended and when I got in the car, I told Mary about my experience. She was perplexed as well, but asked a question, “do you think maybe God healed you of your hay fever and allergies?” I remember saying, I don’t know, but I guess it’s possible.” For clarity, my hay fever and allergies were incredibly severe. I took the highest doses of prescription level Flonase and Claritin. I was allergic to dust, basically myself, and from July through October my eyes would swell shut, so severely that there would be days that I would have to cancel lectures. The day after my experience I woke up with no swelling or sneezing. The same thing happened the next day and the next. A week or so later I stopped using Flonase and Claritin and I haven’t needed or used either of them for over twenty-five years. I have no allergies and no clue when hay fever season is, except when I see someone else struggling. I am indescribably whole. Whole, not by a doctor or medicine. Not by a religion or a church. Not by a doctrine or creed. An experience. This is why I believe. It’s my anchor in my darkest hours and my deepest times of discouragement. An undeniable and unexplainable miracle and its why I never stop praying or believing in God.
Make Room for Suddenly
The book of Acts covers from the ascension of Jesus to the death of Simon Peter and Paul. During the Acts timeline, Paul writes 13 books, 14 if you are of the belief that he is the writer of Hebrews. Simon Peter and James write another three, leaving just five books written after the Acts of the Apostles ends around 70 A.D. Nearly every epistle needs to be read through the prism of the book of Acts. The epistles are written during Acts to saints, people who have experienced the only Spiritual experience found in the 40 years that the book of Acts covers. I mention this because there is a word that catches my attention throughout the book. The word is suddenly, and depending on the version you read, it’s found over a dozen times. Luke wants us to know that much of what people witnessed in the book of Acts happened suddenly. It wasn’t planned, choreographed, or manipulated. The Spirit moved indiscriminately, at its own discretion, independent of any groups, agendas, or schedules. As we’ve started our sabbatical, we’re taking the opportunity to visit churches, something I’ve longed to do throughout my pastorate. I wanted to visit churches with different dynamics, see their systems, experience their services, and get a taste of their vision and passion. In some churches we’ve seen incredible vision, experienced great worship, and heard profound preaching and teaching, but left feeling like there was no room for the Spirit to have its liberty. Great experience, incredible talent, amazing messages, but no room for a “suddenly.” An hour to an hour and fifteen minutes and it was on to the next service or next week. In other venues we’ve left feeling like we were being hyped, manipulated, almost as if they didn’t need a “suddenly,” they could create a move of God on their own. Sing a song fast enough, repeat the chorus a dozen times, have a few timely key changes, and boom! A move of God. We left those services feeling like this was their Sunday routine. A lot of show, but not much substance nor dynamic growth happening in their lives. Different in style, but still no room for an authentic “suddenly.” In nearly every venue we’ve felt sincerity, God’s love, and a desire by each church for people to see Jesus and experience His presence. After some of our recent experiences, I returned to Acts to see when “suddenlys” happened. What I’ve found is that “suddenlys” happened in times of where prayer was the focus, “suddenlys” happened without scripts and programs. “Suddenlys” came without hype or manipulation and happened when people took time to seek God, were praying for His will, and were more concerned about God approval than what a crowd might think. As we’ve visited different church communities, we’ve heard this hunger communicated by others, “we just want to find a place where God’s presence can be experienced freely yet authentically.” Today, more than ever I’m sensing we need less polished, programmed, and planned church. We need less hyped-up, manipulated, and self-created services, and more desperate desire for a “suddenly.” We need more of what John 3:8 says, “like the wind blows. . . so does the Spirit.” Structure is invaluable, being relevant is critical, and doing things decently and in order should be properly balanced, but at the end of the day we need more divine intervention and more indescribable but undeniable. I pray that pastors, churches and more importantly, in each of our personal lives, we begin to desire more “suddenly there came a sound from heaven.”
Thomas L. Craft: Rest in Peace
Hero of the faith. Humble Servant of God. Visionary Leader. An Investor in Young Men. A Passion for Lost Souls. The list could go on and on. No one stands alone but on the shoulders of others, and I stand on the impact of T.L. Craft. He is why I was allowed to spend 15 years at Indiana Bible College and 20 years as Pastor of Life Connections. He believed in me, gave me a chance, and invested in me, as he has done for so many. I loved the days when I was in the office, and he would call and tell me to meet him at the golf course. This is where he poured so much wisdom into me as a young man. I don’t know if it was his way of emptying out the stress of pastoring or that he sensed that God had a specific plan for my life that prompted the calls. Regardless, I’m grateful for those days that we chased the little white ball together, but more thankful that I listened to his wisdom and insight on those hot Mississippi days. As an emerging minister, having an elder that poured into my life made such a difference in my life and eventually impacted how I would pastor. He once told me, “Jon, you can sheer a sheep a 100 times but you can only skin them once.” I never forgot that piece of advice. It saved me many times from making “in the moment mistakes,” and potential repercussions of acting in frustration. Prayer was always a priority at his church, something that left an indelible mark on me, and I will never forget experiencing the most sovereign move of God I have ever seen in one of his Sunday services. I have talked about that service my entire ministry and longed to experience something similar to it again my whole life. So saddened by his passing but thankful for getting to be a part of his incredible life. Rest in peace Pastor and enjoy the place you preached about so often.
The Trouble with Sand
Sand. I have a love hate relationship with it. I say this because the beautiful sandy shores of Orange Beach was my home last week. As I set on the beach enjoying the gentle breeze, watching waves, enjoying family, and reading books, I also had to deal with sand. I must admit that I enjoyed playing games, drawing sketches, and taking walks with Mary in the sand, but there was another side of sand I didn’t enjoy. It was everywhere I didn’t want it to be, in my lunch, stuck to my skin, and eventually into nearly everything we owned. I got home and found sand in my luggage, our car, and clothes. What I’ve determined is sandy venues are nice places to visit, but not a place I necessarily want to live. In Orange Beach, like so many other beaches, it appears that homes are built on the beaches but look closely and you will see that nothing is built on sand. The homes are built on wood foundations that go deep below to soil. Luxurious condominiums that rise into the sky are set on foundations that go as deep as they are high. There is a parable where Jesus talks of how we should build. In the parable Jesus speaks of two builders who built homes. One built on sand and the other solid ground. Jesus says that after the homes were built, storms came, and the home that was built on sand collapsed, while the one built on strong ground, stood. Notice, the problem wasn’t the material, the problem was the foundation. This parable causes me to ask, what are we building our lives and culture on? Things, people, and ideas that shift, change, and move like sand, or on principles and values that have stood the test of storms, time, and difficulty? There is a current of religious culture that feels very sandy. It says have the right look, connect to the right people, have trendy social media, and you will draw a crowd and that makes a successful church community. Don’t rock the boat or make people feel uncomfortable. While it looks good, it’s sandy. No conviction. No call to altars or repentance, and definitely, no allowance for the Spirit to have any freedom in a service. Shudder to think that they might allow signs, wonders, or miracles to work, it might alarm the sinner. Keep the environment controlled and comfortable. It’s sand. What will stand the test of storms and time? Pretty simple. Anything built on the power and Word of God and anywhere there is passionate prayer, and the Spirit is allowed to have liberty.
Flannel and Fall
The array of colorful fall leaves. Pumpkins. Crisp Nights. Bonfires. Warm apple cider. Hayrides. Just the words and you want to throw on a pair of jeans and a flannel shirt. After a long hot summer, there is nothing like that first forecast of fall temperatures. At the Hudson home the first hint of fall means it’s time for the fall décor. Suddenly our home has more foliage than a small forest, pumpkins are on the porch, and fall pillows and a farm truck fill the bench in our entry. It’s amazing how just a subtle change in temperature can have such an impact on our life. May I suggest the same can happen in your spiritual life. A subtle change can alter the course of your family. Start your day with a few moments of devotion or throw on some worship music and watch what can happen. Often your heart, spirit, and even your attitude changes. Things that might annoy you or set off tension in the home suddenly disappear. The kids getting up late is met with a gentle response. The spouse who forgot they had an early morning meeting, instead of being met with a rolling of the eyes, is met with a cup of coffee and a kiss. You see more sunshine, more smiles, and have more grace on those around you. Why not give it a try? As easy as it is to accept the changing of the seasons when the temperature changes, so it can be when we change the atmosphere of our life. As we pull out our flannel, rekindle your faith. Let’s make a change, not only our wardrobe and décor, but the atmosphere of our homes.
Just Keep Searching
She had search for years, forty in fact. She had tried ointments and medicines. She had gone to doctor after doctor and tried every imaginable option. She was desperate for relief, for healing, for a miracle. She had spent more money than she could count, but no matter what she tried, the outcome was always the same, her sickness was still with her. When someone mentioned the healer Jesus, she was reluctant, maybe even a little sarcastic, but deep inside her heart there was still a measure of hope. When the word came that Jesus was coming to her town, she pushed passed her previous disappointments and headed to where they said Jesus would be. As she nears where Jesus is, she sees the crowd, and for a moment she considers turning around and heading home, but the same hope that had caused her to try every medicine, meet every doctor, and spend whatever it cost, said press on. So, she did, pushing through the crowd, she can only catch the hem of Jesus’ garment. What happens next is beyond her imagination. An indescribable feeling runs through her body, instantly she knows something has changed. No one has to tell her, no one has to verify what has happened, she knows. . . she gasps and whispers to herself, “I’m healed.” No one in the crowd knows, and if it had not been for Jesus pausing, she could have walked away whole. But Jesus stops, asking what the crowd and disciples think is an absurd question, “someone has touched me.” The disciples state the obvious, “Master, everyone has touched you.” But then Jesus clarifies, it wasn’t just a touch, but a touch of faith, a touch of hope, a touch that took virtue out of Jesus’ body and brought healing to the woman. Her life is forever changed because she never quit searching, never gave up. If you’re searching for answers to problems in your life, searching for a solution to difficult circumstances, search for Jesus and keep searching until you find Him. While you may not find your answer today or tomorrow, if you keep on searching and keep looking with purpose, you will find Him. And when you find Him, you will find the answer to so many questions and the solution to so many problems and difficulties. You can try everything you know to solve the issues you are dealing with, but when every other possibility fails, and it feels hopeless, know that if you haven’t tried Jesus, you still have hope, and He was your best option all along.
Closing a Chapter and Starting a New
For nearly 20 years as Pastor of Life and 35 years of ministry, Mary and I have built our life and preaching on four basic principles. These are based in the Word of God and are the foundations of our faith and belief. As we close our chapter here at Life, we remind you of them and encourage you to never let anyone move you away from them.
There is One God.
Deuteronomy 6:4 – Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one [the only God]!
- God has many dimensions, but He is one.
- God is multifaceted and multidimensional, but one.
The Word of God is Above All.
Luke 21:33 – Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.
- Make God’s Word priority above all and let it lead you through life.
- Do not be swayed by books, men’s concepts, or religion. Stay in God’s Word
- Read the Bible with prayer.
These two ideas are summed in John 1:1 where John says, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Prayer must be a Life Priority.
Matthew 21:13 – It is written [in Scripture], ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer.
- Pray first in every situation knowing prayer can change any situation.
- Prayer will guide, protect, and keep you when confusion comes.
Water & Spirit Baptism is Essential.
John 3:5 – Jesus answered, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot [ever] enter the kingdom of God.
- These are the words of Jesus, put them above every man and religion.
- Believing, faith, and obedience is critical, but never leave this foundational statement of Jesus.
- Acts time frame is from 30 to 70 and every epistle, which were written to churches and saints, were written between 30 to 70. We find clarity and growth in the epistles. There is one message and experience in Acts. Baptism in the name of Jesus and baptism in the Spirit with a language unknown.
As this chapter of our life closes, Mary and I want to thank everyone who has ever been a part of Life and allowed us to be your pastor. It has been an amazing journey and incredibly fulfilling to see so many lives impacted by the gospel. I will continue this weekly blog online and we look forward to what God has in the future for Mary and I. May God’s blessings and favor rest on each of you. Reach one more for Jesus!
God is In Your Story
“God is in This Story,” a brand-new song by Katy Nichole and Big Daddy Weave, if you haven’t heard it yet, cue it up. In essence the song says even though God doesn’t give us all the details, He is in the details. There is so much truth there. God gives Noah the plans to build an ark but not all the details of how the future would unfold. Though Noah may have felt abandoned, God was in the details and with him throughout the journey. Moses experienced God in a miraculous way at a burning bush, but once again, God doesn’t give Moses every detail. But as the pages of Moses’ life turned, God was with Him in every moment. David is anointed king in front of his brothers, but God gives him little, if any details, to the twist and turns that will be involved in His future. When David says, “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,” he is letting us know that though there are difficult times, God is in the details. Jeremiah says, “God knows the plans He has for us,” and though He knows our journey, rarely does he give us the full description. Why? Because if he gave us every detail it would overwhelm us. We would succumb to fear and anxiety and run from His design and purpose. So, in His great wisdom, He gives us bits and pieces, day by day, just enough so that we will have the courage to take the next step. This He knows, if we will keep walking, He can take us places far beyond our imagination and natural ability. Discouraged? Overwhelmed? Broken? Fearful? Take heart. God is in your details. God is in your story!
Beauty in it All
Sitting at my desk watching nature through our windows I’ve seen life at its best. A hawk chasing a squirrel who is trying to escape for its life. A yellow finch continually knocking on our window (this has been happening for weeks). I’ve watched a red bird feed her babies in a pine tree and a chipmunk nibbling nervously on something he found to enjoy. And sounds. Leaves whispering their own song as the breeze blows through their branches, birds humming a beautiful melody, and squirrels making noises I’ve never heard before, only because I’ve taken time to listen. Our orange hammock hanging on a tree nearby blows in the wind, it’s a place to enjoy a good book and nap. I love this more than ever, a new incredible lease on life, I see beauty all around me. I was in a very dark place two years ago and couldn’t capture this kind of beauty if I would have tried. I was paralyzed with fear and anxiety, trying desperately to pray through it and survive it. Now, two years later, the miraculous hand of God is again working in mysterious ways in my life, I see life differently. I’m forever grateful; there are no words that can express how incredible the God we serve is. I mean it, I truly mean it when I say, that I understand that there is a devastating anxiety that can paralyze a soul. It’s real. I was there and know what it feels like to think, this will never end. I know this subject is something we don’t like to talk about, something we want to sweep under the rug, and never bring up, but we can’t do that if we want to survive. God sees where we are at even when we can’t feel him. Never, ever give up, keep getting back up. Your breakthrough is coming, and you will find, like nature, there is beauty in it all.
– Mary Hudson
Just a Breeze
The temperature is 93, the humidity is 85 percent, and the “feels like” temperature is 107. Are you sweating and feeling the misery just by reading that sentence? Welcome to summer in Indiana. Where do you want to be when we have one of those days? I either want to be in an air-conditioned room or a vehicle with the A/C blowing full blast. If you can’t be in either one of those places or have a job that requires you to be outside for an extended time, what do you want? Just a breeze. A breeze is defined as a light, gentle wind. It’s enough wind to make the day bearable, give you hope, and cool your brow. If you can find a shade tree and a glass of tea or lemonade, you might consider staying there for a while. How important is a breeze? In Acts 27 Paul is on a ship headed to Italy when conditions begin to deteriorate, for a moment they pause and think of terminating the journey, but Acts 27:12 says, “when a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so, they weighed anchor and sailed. . .” Catch that! They were ready to give up, drop anchor, but a gentle wind changed everything, and they sailed on. Life has its challenges, discouragement comes, but if we catch a breeze, it changes everything. We often look to vacations, entertainment, and other stimulus to give us energy, but Simon Peter says in Acts 3:19 that the refreshing breeze we want is found in repentance. “Repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;” How inspiring! How close are we to a spiritual breeze? As quick as we turn toward God and lean into His overwhelming peace and presence, a breeze of the Spirit will come and invigorate us. Catch a breeze!
Live in Liberty
Freedom. We have parades and shoot off fireworks to celebrate it. Yet I’m afraid freedom is a concept that we don’t totally grasp. It’s not necessarily a liberty to do anything, but more, the possibility not to be bound by anything. Early Americans didn’t want liberty to do everything, they wanted freedom to live without being controlled. Unfortunately, far too many who will wave flags and shoot off fireworks this week, are encumbered by bondage. Government and leaders are binding their citizens with humanistic ideas, political and social elites control society with carnal philosophies and beliefs, and the minority wants to set the standard for the majority. Beyond societal oppression, many are bound by the entrapments of this life. Countless are controlled by greed and gold. Others are bound to alcohol, drugs, and perversion. Far too many are overcome by sin that is destroying their lives and families. In Luke 4:18, Jesus said he had come “. . . to proclaim release to the captive. . .to set free those who are oppressed.” Jesus’ freedom liberates us from things that the devil had enticed and trapped us with. It’s Zacchaeus, insnared by greed, being freed by the grace of Jesus. It’s a woman lured into a moment of adultery, freed by the mercy of Jesus. His words to her as he frees her are important, “go and sin no more.” What does he give her? Freedom over sins control over her, the ability to have a different lifestyle, and live untangled from her past and mistakes. In John 8:36 Jesus said to the crowd, “the Son makes you free and you are free indeed.” What does that mean? It means because of Jesus we are no longer controlled by things that overwhelmed and mastered us. We are liberated from sins power and set free from our past mistakes. Live in liberty. Live in the freedom of Jesus!
Just a Whiff
The smells of life. They are all around us. Some good, some not so good. Smelling the savory smell of good food, flowers in a garden, or the scent of a candle in a store or home, immediately grabs our attention. There are smells we totally miss, and I was unaware I was missing them until we got our little convertible. Now it’s one of our favorite things about our little car. Driving along we will occasionally get a whiff of freshly cut grass, a backyard fire, a barbecue, or the fragrance of a flowering tree. It immediately arrests our attention and stops the conversation; all we want to do is take in the scent. Smells can take us back to special moments in our lives or days gone by. Almost every smell has a story. Imagine smelling the fragrance of the perfume that Mary poured on Jesus’ feet. A stale old room filled with sweaty people is suddenly overwhelmed by an aroma that is pleasant and refreshing. Even if you missed the moment when she anointed his feet, you were instantly aware by the fragrant change that now fills the room. I would imagine that from that day forward, any time anyone caught a scent of that amazing moment, instantly had a flashback to Mary’s amazing act. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:15, “we are the sweet smell of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are being lost.” Whether we realize it or not, each day we put off a scent, a smell of God’s glory or the smell of this world. One is pleasant and refreshing, the other often old and unpleasing. Why do we need a regular time of prayer? It’s where we get the anointing that gives us the right scent. Prayer ensures that our family, friends, and the world we walk in gets the right whiff.
Don’t Let it Fade
Memorial Day. Its purpose wasn’t for people to picnic and party, but to pause and reflect on who we are, where we came from, and how it happened. Those reflections are an assortment of good and bad events. We remember those who died for our freedom and celebrate the liberties that makes this a great country. It’s not a unique celebration, in fact, it’s one that has its foundation in the Bible. Joshua’s book gives us insight into a moment when God opens the Jordon River and Israel walks through it on dry ground. It’s a repeat of what Moses and their ancestry had experienced forty years earlier. As the last man walks out of the dry riverbed Joshua orders the leaders of each tribe to go back into the river and get one large stone. After the stones are gathered, they are instructed to stack them in a fashion that forms a memorial. Why? So that generations later, after this miraculous moment is but a shadow, they will remember what God had done. I’m saddened by what has happened to many of the memorials in our country over the past few years, not because I glory in the abuse or condone the actions of men, but because without those memorials we won’t remember our past. Today we’re not able to take our children to memorials of past failures and teach them about our nation’s mistakes. When memorials are torn down societies tends to repeat their actions because they have no reminder of the past. Why did Israel turn away from God in Judges, just one book later? Could it be because someone forgot to protect the memorials, forgot to take their children to them, and forgot to teach them about God’s miraculously ability to deliver? I encourage you to build memorials in your family. Remind them often of how great God is and what an important role he has played in your successes.
Those Stupid Weeds
Spring. It is officially here. If you question it, go to any garden shop. Doesn’t matter if it’s Lowes, Home Depot, or a local nursery, you will be greeted by crowds. All ages and ethnicities with all varieties of plants and flowers in their carts. Drive through any neighborhood and you will see flowerpots and yards filled with an assortment of color: geraniums, petunias, and impatiens. Whether those who are planting realize it or not, they are planting things that require maintenance. If plants are to grow full and lush, they’re going to require fertilizer. Flowers will require getting up early or staying out late for watering. Fail to be disciplined and quickly your flowers and plants will wither and die. As spring turns to summer, other plants begin to appear, ones you did not purchase or plant. Weeds! They require no fertilizer or water, they just grow, grow, and grow. Getting rid of them will require Roundup, and lots of it. A gardener is always at war with weeds. There is so much God in gardening. Think about it, having a healthy and fruitful spiritual life takes work. There must be consistent watering of our hearts and spirits with prayer. We must fertilize our mind and soul with the sounds of worship. We hit the house of God so our lives can be strengthened by His Word and community. Get out of the routine and watch how quickly your spirit can become bitter or sour and heart callused and cold. Then, if the lack of spiritual discipline doesn’t get us, the weeds of sin begin growing. Jealousy drops seeds in our heart, lust gets in our eye, and within days, we’re inundated by the worldly weeds. Today’s challenge. As you work on your yard, remember your heart is a garden as well. Water, feed, and prune regularly!
Living Off the Spirit Grid
I’m a noticer. It doesn’t matter where I’m at or what I’m doing, I’m observing. It’s one of my ways of learning. This particular day found me on an interstate I had not been on before. The landscape is lush with trees and rolling terrain. It’s here I notice an Amish farmer plowing his field. He’s standing on a plow tied to four oxen. I marvel as I witness old life in modern times. As I’m watching, I notice power lines above him, massive lines, maybe 50 feet tall. These lines aren’t carrying energy to homes, they’re transporting power to cities. They are just above him to the east. I also catch a glimpse of a home, I presume is his, because there are no power lines running to it. As the moment recedes into my rear-view mirror, my thoughts reflect on his life, he’s so close to so much power, yet chooses to live without it. What an example of some Christians. Jesus said, “you shall receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you (Acts 1:8), yet how many live without tapping into the power. How many plow through life with an old-world mentality, seeking peace, joy, and happiness in worldly treasures? We live with access to God’s power, yet often choose to live off the grid, trying to succeed without His life changing influence. How much power is just above us? Enough that would cause an entire city to say, “these are they that have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6), and enough to cause people to lay the sick in the street that the shadow of Simon Peter might bring healing (Acts 5:15). God’s power, it’s not a matter of if He has it, but if we will tap into it. We have a choice, plow on our own or pray for His power.
It all started early Monday morning. A thump on our window, and then another, and then another. . . and it has continued all week. What is it? One small yellow finch. I am assuming it’s the same one, surely there’s not another that wants to spend its entire day crashing its head into our sliding glass window. At this moment, as I am writing, I’m safe to say he (or she) is averaging a crash about every ten seconds. Occasionally, it stops, shakes itself, inspects its feathers, and begins again. It seems absurd, and I suppose at some point it will stop, but for now, “bird tv” is a part of our daily entertainment. We’ve scared it off a few times, but it returns, and continues its relentless attack on our glass. I would love to have a conversation with it about its actions and purpose, but obviously I don’t speak bird, and I’m not really sure it would accomplish anything. Reminds me of how we sometimes handle stress, anxiety, and worry. Like the bird, no matter how much sleep we lose, how much time we spend in a mental round-about, we just end up burning energy and wasting time, and accomplishing nothing. In Matthew 6:27 Jesus puts it bluntly when He says, “who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” What are we to do? We basically have three options. First, living like the yellow finch who is assaulting our window; spend your days stressing, worrying, using a lot of energy, and accomplishing nothing. Second, trust God. David gives us valuable wisdom in Proverbs 3:5 when he says, “trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” Finally, relax! There is not one thing that overwhelms God, and if He’s not overwhelmed, then give it your best effort to not let issues trouble you either.
Spring Into a New Beginning!
Spring amazes me with its stunning spender of yellow, pink, purple and white colors. It’s the moment God brightens the earth with yet another masterpiece of His glorious beauty. Spring air, accompanied by rain, produces bright green hues everywhere which provides the perfect backdrop for His kaleidoscope of color. With sunlight making its way through the cloud covering, I stand in awe of the miraculous creation of color God makes for us. He thinks out every process of this majestic canvas and He does this simply for us to enjoy. Winter can be cold and barren, bitter and stagnant. And then, Spring, with its glorious colors, reminds us of His desire to make things new and fresh. Often Spring is a time when God starts something fresh and new in us. It’s a time of new beginnings. As you venture through this Spring, allow God to form something miraculous in your life. Take the time to take in the beauty around you. Let Spring remind us that we too are a canvas of God, and we have the potential to produce beauty and growth. Growth that can change the world for someone else needing hope. Before you know it, these incredible colors will be gone. The blooms will blow away and new growth will turn to leaves. So, enjoy Spring, the time for growth and new beginnings, and ask God to begin something new and beautiful in you!
I’ve Got This
The Triumphal Entry. It wasn’t an event; it was a statement. It was premeditated and calculated. Jesus knew exactly what He was doing. He knew His friends and foes. He knew what the day, Palm Sunday, would hold and He knew what the week would hold. Riding into Jerusalem on a colt was no accident, it was a declaration; to every Pharisee and religious leader Jesus was saying, I am in control. To every dark and demonic Spirit, He’s saying I am not afraid. It’s not a statement for the week, but a proclamation for eternity. The week would start with a Triumphal Entry and crowds crying, “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” and would end with crowds crying “crucify Him.” He doesn’t become enamored by the accolades nor discouraged by the jeers. He knew the moment was bigger than a parade or a cross, this was about who controls eternity. It’s about who would have power over death, hell, and the grave. It’s about sickness having dominance and darkness dominating the world. When the week comes to an end and He says, “it is finished,” He is not talking about His life, but the question of who was in control. As He breathes His last breath, He knows I am forever in control of eternity. Sin, sickness, disease, and death are now powerless. Satan, his schemes, and plans are forever thwarted. All things are subject to Him. The Triumphal Entry was an everlasting statement that said, I control everything, including my death. A good thing to know. Whether it’s in a court room or hospital room. Whether life or death. Jesus has triumphed and your life is safely in His hands.
And Just Like That
And just like that, it happened. The crowd was gone. In early January you would have thought the entire town of Noblesville had joined our health club. Whether it was seven in the morning or seven at night, the place was packed. February comes and the crowds were still steady. There was determination on people’s faces; they were going to get fit and lose weight. But as it often does, resolve and resolution fade into routine and old habits. Now it’s the committed. Those who show up day in and day out; those who are dedicated to making a change. This isn’t something new. Paul called out the Galatians, saying “you were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?” It’s human nature to fade, to allow obstacles to overwhelm us and discouragements to defeat us. What is the difference between those who fade and those who fight? Often it comes down to just one thing, determination. We are awestruck by Paul’s incredible successes but realize Paul was given many opportunities to quit instead of continuing. Stoned, beaten, persecuted, misunderstood, shipwrecked, and jailed, all opportunities to quit. In 2 Corinthians 3:1 we see his resolve when we read, “I determined this for my own sake, that I would not come to you in sorrow again.” Paul went through bad times, often felt like a failure, and had seasons where so many misunderstood and opposed his teaching, yet he was determined. I will not quit. I will not be defeated. I will not give up. His determination, his passion and his vision pushed him past his problems and pain. How many churches would not have been established? How many books would not have been written? More importantly, how many lives would not know Jesus? When times are tough, don’t quit! Pray harder, fast longer, and be determined to finish what God has called you to do.
The Importance of Being Present
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.
Make it an Experience
We were on a two-lane road in upper Michigan surrounded by pine trees and snow. Picturesque, but not necessarily the place to be when you are looking for lunch. We came to a wide gap in the road when we saw a sign, “Antlers, A One-of-a-Kind Experience.” We started to pass it by, but something said, give it a run. What we experienced over the next hour can only be describe as “good food turned into an incredible dining experience. It all started with our waitress, Jan. A 50ish old red headed woman who could have sold ice cubes to an Eskimo. From the moment we met Jan it was as she had known us for 10 years, and it seemed whatever we asked for, she was determined to make happen. When I asked if they had sweet tea, she said no, but I can make it happen. I assumed that meant a pack of sugar, but instead she returned with a glass half filled with tea and ice, a cup of hot tea, and instructions of how to mix it so it would be as good as that “southern stuff.” Every dish was described as though it was the best that had ever been made and when we settled on the “Amazing Pot Pie,” we asked if we could split it, she said, “absolutely, but it might be a little small.” We were fine with that and then ordered our salad which involved Jan describing the favor of every dressing in detail. The meal presentation was top shelf, and the food was good beyond description. Stuffed like it was Thanksgiving, Jan somehow convinced us we needed one of the home desserts. We still don’t know how she did it, but somehow, she convinced us we needed two, one for now and one to take home. . . we bought both! For Jan, Antler’s was not a job, it was a passion. She didn’t just serve food, she created an atmosphere and made our dinner an experience. Her spirit and attitude made us wonder what it would be like if a church community had the same attitude, that church wasn’t just a Sunday thing, but a personal passion. How might it impact change someones concept of church?
Don’t Miss Your Moment
It started with a call from Risa on Monday morning. “Dad did you hear? We’re going to have a blizzard; they’re saying we could have 18 inches of snow and 40mph winds. . . it the blizzard you’ve always prayed for!” As many of you know, I am the blizzard guy. For years I’ve prayed for my kids to experience what I experienced in 1978. But this news created a problem. We had just arrived in Orange Beach to spend a few days with my parents. I was setting in the sun on a patio enjoying the warm temperatures and watching the waves. I was about to miss the answer to prayer and likely never live down the fact that I was setting on a beach after praying for a blizzard for years. As fate would have it, situations at the church forced us to return early Wednesday morning, meaning we would get to experience the blizzard. But, as it always seems to happen, the storm weakened, and we just got a nice winter storm. This week’s event spoke to my heart and reminded me how easy it is to miss moments that we’ve prayed for. It’s exactly what happened to five virgins. Reflecting on the story in Matthew 25, there were ten virgins waiting for a groom who was delayed. In a tragic ending, five virgins missed their dream moment by not being at the right place at the right time. Why be faithful to prayer and devotional time? Why make God’s house our top priority? Because we never know when God may show up or answer a prayer. Whether it’s doing something, that at the moment seems important, like getting oil, or doing something innocent, like setting on a beach, as often as possible, be faithful to God’s house and your devotional time. Don’t miss your moment.
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.