Missing the Miracle, Stuck in the Mundane
“BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON,
AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “ GOD WITH US.”
We will never know his name and he is probably the one man you would not want to be in the story of Christmas. The Innkeeper. One wonders if he ever realized he was the one who turned the young couple away that night or if he ever became a follower of Jesus. All we know is that he was too busy or to consumed with the moment to entertain the majestic. Thousands of years later much has changed yet much has not. While we now have lights, heat, cars and computers often we suffer from the same problem that faced the innkeeper; too consumed with life, too caught up in the mundane to experience the miracle.
As we come to this joyous celebration of Christmas, don’t miss the miracle of it all while dealing with the mundane. God robed in flesh, came and dwelt with His creation so that our lives and eternity could be changed forever. Jesus, Emanuel, God with us, Savior, Prince of Peace and Mighty God. However you want to say His name, don’t miss the moment. Jesus, the reason for the season. Let’s not forget it!
Right Side Up or Upside Down?
…they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities,
shouting, “These men who have upset the world have come here also.
You may have seen the news this week where Albert Pujols signed a contract that will pay him a quarter of a billion dollars to hit a baseball for the next 10 years. That is nearly $155,000 a game or $51,000 each time he goes to the plate. As I read the news my mind went to the scripture that said, “these are they who have turned the world upside down.” It’s amazing what the world calls right side up and upside down. We pay a baseball player a quarter of a billion dollars to hit a baseball and our teachers 50,000 to teach our kids. We make sports the priority of our kid’s lives and church an after thought. I think what the world calls right side up is really upside down and there needs to be another revival that turns “the world upside down.”
Today at Life Connections we are blessed to have our Kids Connection class performing “A King is Coming to Town.” Our hope is that this Christmas program will remind each of us of the priorities of life and that we will reflect on what is really important in our lives and homes and that we will turn our world upside down, or as I think, right side up.
Share the Season
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
Christmas. What a wonderful time of year. If we aren’t careful we will allow the commercialism to cause us to miss some of the great treasures of Christmas. Whether it is hanging the stockings, decorating the tree or hanging lights on the house, these are all opportunities for making great memories. Life Connections too is a place to make good memories.
Yesterday we had a good group who helped with Breakfast with Santa, we left feeling better about ourselves after hearing the laughter of others and sharing the love of Jesus as we invited them into our church. Tonight we will have a good time of fellowship with our annual Christmas Gathering and next week we get the chance to see what is an always-entertaining Kid’s Christmas Program. In a couple of weeks we will go out and carol our neighbors, while we may not be the most talented caroler’s, we always leave with lots of memories and laughter. Our Evening in December Christmas Concert is a great time to invite someone out to hear the sounds of the seasons and let them feel the difference that the Spirit brings to a song. Finally, invite someone to be a part of our Christmas Eve Service at 5 p.m. Share the season with others, make some memories and make Christmas 2011 one of the best ever.
Needs and Wants
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another
with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Anyone else notice what seems to be happening to Thanksgiving? It’s becoming a necessary inconvenience that’s getting in the way of Black Friday. Gentry put it so well this week when he said, “Its amazing how fast people went from being thankful to being greedy.” It’s likely few Americans took time to reflect on the goodness and blessings they have because they were too busy getting ready to get their next want. If early settlers would step into our homes they would shutter at our priorities and lack of thankfulness. Early Thanksgivings were filled with a spirit of heart-felt thankfulness not only at Thanksgiving, but also throughout the year. They understood that God had helped them survive harsh conditions, given them shelter and provided food. Their needs had been met and that was enough.
As Christmas approaches lets make sure we don’t forget why we celebrated Thanksgiving; we are thankful. I understand that I have what I have because of the kindness of the Lord, I am what I am by His mercy and I realize the greatest need I have is His salvation. For that I am thankful and look forward to Christmas with a different perspective.
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
As we come to this moment of Thanksgiving and we invite family and friends into our homes and lives lets make sure to take time to reflect on God’s goodness to us individually and to our nation as a whole. We are among the most blessed people in the world. From our home to yours have a blessed and safe Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving, the day we all pause to reflect, remember and give thanks for all the good things that God has brought to our homes and country. Early settlers had faced many difficulties, hard weather, death and understood and appreciated all the things that God had done for them and realized that without Him they probably would not have survived. While this year has had its share of difficulties, it pales in comparison to what those who celebrated the first Thanksgiving faced. We have experienced God’s great salvation, live in the greatest country in the world and for the most part, we all have been blessed with wonderful health, spent the year with a roof over our head and food in our refrigerators. Here at Life Connections we have seen God do miraculous things and experienced his wonderful presence many times. We have fun times together too; Bagels and Bunnies, our first Strawberry Festival and Fall Festival.
Running with a Miracle
For nothing will be impossible with God.
What miracle have you been told is impossible? What have doctors told you can’t happen, what have friends told you is a pipe dream? Keep believing, keep dreaming and keep bringing it to Jesus. At any given moment God can turn your impossibility into a reality. Ask a blind man who was sitting on the side of the road crying out to Jesus or a woman with a blood issue who touched his garment when you get to heaven or you can just go over to my wife Mary and ask her how it feels to run when she wasn’t ever suppose to walk. Why am I faithful, why do I pray, why do I worship? Simply because the God I serve is a miracle working God. God can!
I really wasn’t thinking about it but as she ran ahead of me I realized, “I’m watching a miracle.” The doctors had told her parents she would never walk, much less run, but the doctors hadn’t considered the “God factor;” that with God all things are possible. So in a little Pennsylvania church service when many came expecting nothing of God, God reached down and touched a little girls legs and she walked, not just a few steps but for the rest of her life. If you ever see my wife Mary run, she runs with a smile on her face and now you know why, because she wasn’t supposed to walk, much less run.
A Three Mile Move
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept;
line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:
It was just a little move, three miles to be exact, but that little move changed our lives so much. Our lives have more peace, our home is quieter, we buy groceries at a different grocery, gas at a different gas station. We eat at different restaurants and bank at a different bank: all by moving just three miles.
Reflecting on how much our lives changed with such a small move made me wonder what would happen if we would just make a little move in our spiritual priorities. Make God’s house a little more of a priority, pray a little more often and with more intensity, fast regularly with resolve or find ourselves lost in God’s Word a bit more. What might happen? It might change our lives a lot. It might change our attitude about our job and family, it might cause some of us to become more involved in our church and with our church family or it might just bring a little more faith, hope and peace to your overall life.
What I do know is this, a little movement can make big changes. Why not give it a try? Make the move to get closer to God, and see how much better life might be.
Relationship verses Religion
2 Kings 22:8a
Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary,
“I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the LORD.”
This week we will be returning to our Bible study “Relationship verses Religion.” I want to encourage you to make a special effort to be with us the next few Wednesday evenings. My hope is that this study will help us to grow stronger in our walk with God and move us from simply being “church goers.” In our introduction we looked at an event that happened in 2 Kings chapter 22 when a young boy became king and turned the nation back to a relationship with God and stopped meaningless ritualistic worship that was developed in his nation over a process of time. The amazing part of this story is that as workers were restoring the temple that they ran across the Old Testament Law. How could the Law of God be lost in the temple? Who would allow priest to operate without following God’s Word? And finally, I wonder how long they had went to the temple without understanding why they were going or why they were doing the things they were doing. Attending without purpose, going through the motions without passion, choosing which parts of God Word are important and what are not…these are all signs of a church that has become “religious.” The desire of God was not that we would learn a religious system but rather that we would fall in love with Him and develop a personal relationship with Him where our sacrifices and commitments were real and genuine. Longing for a deeper walk with God? Come and be a part of this important Bible study and redefine why you are a Christian.
Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits…
This is a story passed along by James Larson, my pastor as a young man.
A young man was getting ready to graduate college. For months he had admired a sports car at dealership and knowing his father could well afford it, he told him that was all he wanted. On the day of his graduation his father called him into his study. His father told him how proud he was of him and how much he loved him. He handed his son a gift box. Curious, but disappointed the young man opened the box and found a leather-bound Bible. Angrily he raised his voice at his father and said, "With all your money you give me a Bible?" and stormed out of the house, leaving the Bible on the desk. Many years passed, the young man was successful in business, had a beautiful home and wonderful family, but realized his father was old and he had not seen him since that graduation day. Before he could make arrangements, he received word that his father had passed away and willed all of his possessions to him. When he arrived at his father's house, sudden sadness and regret filled his heart. He began to search his father's papers and saw the still new Bible, just as he had left it years ago. With tears, he opened the Bible and began to turn the pages. As he was reading a car key dropped with a tag on it. On the tag was the date of his graduation and the words...paid in full.
While there wont be a car in every Bible I promise if you will read His Word you will be blessed. He daily loads us with benefits!
Out of Touch? It's Not a God Problem
In my distress I called upon the LORD, And cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple…
It was nearly the perfect storm. The Internet had gone out, we had cancelled home phone service months earlier, Mary’s phone had died and my battery was going critically low. We were nearly at the point of absolutely having no ability to communicate with anyone. While in one sense it was nice to do some time traveling back into the seventies and have some freedom from the phone and technology, there was also some panic. What if our kids needed to get a hold of us, what if there was an emergency; there would be no way to contact anyone. Has anyone ever tried to find a pay phone lately? Thankfully my battery made it, the next day a new battery fixed Mary’s phone and the Internet was restored. Back in the loop and back to reality.
Being unable to communicate with others for a couple of hours is one thing, but being out of contact with God is another. If the communication is lacking between you and God it’s not on God’s end; God is always available, His phone never breaks down and He never slumbers or sleeps. So if there is a problem its on our end; we choose to disregard His call, fail to communicate with Him or decide His input is irrelevant to our life. Out of the contact with God? Get on your knees and get back in touch, He’s waiting!
Hit the Pause Button!
Many there be which say of my soul, there is no help for him in God. Selah
Selah. David used the word in the Psalms often. It means to pause or rest. The pause was a moment where music was played with no vocals or some believe God wanted the reader to take moment and reflect on, or think about what was just read. Others say that David got so excited after writing a portion of a Psalm that he had to take a selah, a break and worship the Lord. Whichever it was, a Selah was an important part of a Psalm and even today it’s what gives a song character.
Having “selah” moments in our own lives is important. As lives become more hectic we often forget to pause or rest and in so doing we often miss important moments in our lives. We fail to hear the need of a spouse, the cry of a child or the hurt of a friend. More importantly, when we don’t take a selah, we forget to reflect on the goodness of the Lord or miss when the voice of the Lord trying to speak to us. May I suggest that like David we take “Selah’s”. Take one on Sunday to come to church. Take one in the middle of the week to be at Bible Study. Take some to be at prayer meetings and take them daily or frequently in your home or life to reflect on God’s kindness, grace and mercy. If you do so, you’ll find life the music of your life will sound much better. Lets stop the noise and take a selah today.
Benadryl is not Toothpaste
And he called out, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
I guess I was being a little too casual. I picked up the tube, squeezed a little paste on my toothbrush and proceeded to brush my teeth. Instantly I knew something was wrong, instead of that minty fresh taste there was this creamy odd taste. What I thought was toothpaste was actually Benadryl. I don’t know how the Benadryl got there, but what I do know is that as soon as I realized there was a problem I corrected it.
I sense the same could be said of David. He had got a little too casual in his walk with God, found himself immersed in sin but then when confronted by the prophet Nathan, he quickly repents and made things right with God. When the blind man (someone with a problem) found out that Jesus was near he cried out, “have mercy on me;” in other words, Jesus I have a problem and you have a solution for me right now.
Do you have something that is not quite right in your life? React like I did when I realized I was brushing with Benadryl or when David was confronted Nathan; make a change, quickly! Your biggest challenge is not your mistake but your reaction to your mistake. Not where you need to be in God? Make the change today!
The strength of a church is not found in the number of attendees, its programs, or its pedigree. The strength of a church is found in the commitment of those who attend and call it their home and is seen by their commitment to God, His Word and His house.
Churches without committed people are simply smorgasbord churches; places where people soothe their conscience, are entertained by music and ministry and gather for fun events. John wrote to one of the churches in the book or Revelation saying, “I wish you were either hot or cold…you have left your first love.” That church had the “smorgasbord” mentality and it was both immature and dangerous. The people at smorgasbord churches pick and chose which parts of the Bible they want to obey, often attend only on Sunday or when it’s convenient and rarely invest in prayer meetings, fasting or spending time with others in the church. When crisis come, they blame the church, the leadership, often walk away from God and take no responsibility for the crisis that has arisen in their life.
As Pastor of Life Connections I am asking those who make this place their home to be committed, we can’t be a “smorgasbord church,” it s a matter of eternity. As for me, give me everything on the menu. I want to make heaven my home.
Proud to Be an American
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good
in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.
Ten years ago our lives were changed. Every American knows exactly where they were when the news began to break that four airliners had been hijacked and were being used as bombs. I had just pulled into the parking lot of the college where I worked, I set in a surreal state trying to comprehend what was happening and how I was going to handle the situation in my classes. America changed that day; we lost freedoms and realized we were vulnerable. There was a sense of pride that swept across the land, Americans went out and bought flags, played patriot music, chanted U.S.A. and turned to God in prayer.
The attempt of these evil men was to put fear in Americans, they wanted us to stop living, to cower and loose faith in our God, but it didn’t happen. Instead we rallied, we fought back, we prayed and we showed the world what it meant to be an American. While we will never forget the pain and hurt it brought to so many lives, we have went on; we still fly in planes, still believe that Jesus is the only true God and still believe that America is the best place in the world to live.
“God Bless America, I’m proud to be an American, U.S.A., U.S.A.,” say it however you want. It’s still the greatest place in the world to call home and I am proud to be an American.
So he got up and went to his father.
I have a question for you. If you have drifted away from God, who has moved? If you find yourself not as faithful to church, having devotions or spending time in prayer, who has moved?
One day Jesus asked a hard question of those following Him and immediately a large contingent fell away. After they had left Jesus turned to His disciples and asked will you leave also. From this we can draw that in every persons life there will be an opportunity to walk away from God and your faith. Paul stated it this way, “who shall separate me (or move me) from the love of God” and then listed things that possibly could take someone away from God.
In Today’s society you don’t have to look far for a reasons to walk away for God and faith. The adversary will tempt you with success, fame, strife, pain, blame and a 100 other tactical resources to get you to move. If you have moved the answer to getting back in right relationship with God lies in your hands. Like the prodigal, stop wallowing in self-pity and blaming others, get up and get back to the Father’s house. He’s setting on the porch watching for your silhouette to show up on the horizon.
The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
Simple...there is something refreshing and invigorating at just the thought of simple. We reflect often about the olden days and the simple life. Painting a vivid picture for you, is easy. The porch swing swaying, the screen door swinging, the sound of gentle chatter and conversation and sipping ice tea. Refreshing and simple!
What kept Jesus and his earthly example looking simple and yet profoundly effective? Examples like the picture I painted above. Sitting at the well, taking it easy just asking for a sip of water. He encounters the life transforming moment when conversation between him and the Samaritan woman changes her town for the day. Are you feeling over whelmed? Is your life feeling cluttered and chaotic? Do you long for interactions that could potentially transform your life? Take time for "simple"...there is no telling what God will do for you!
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on…
Under Construction! I see the sign every day as I come to church; A not so subtle reminder that the road in front of the church is a mess. While an inconvenience and frustrating with communication lines cut, mud in the parking lot and no traffic driving by the church, I understand that sometimes for things to get better, they first have to get worse and it takes time. Without a period of construction there can be no improvement or expansion.
What is true with our road project is true of our lives as well. Paul said it well, “we have not yet obtained.” May I put it this way, we are under construction and construction can be ugly at times. Sometimes lines of communication go down (prayer), sometimes we look like we are a hopeless mess (see the road out front) and sometimes we feel like we’ll never become what we’re supposed to be, but in time…we press on. Don’t’ get discouraged, remember that just like the site manger knows what it takes to get our new road completed, God knows what it takes to get us to what He wants us to look like. Under Construction, its not a bad thing…it means you are being improved!
Are You Relevant?
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied:”
Over the past few Wednesday nights we have used Stuckey’s as our example of how quickly something can go from relevance to irrelevance. Stuckey’s was a place that nearly every family stopped at as they journeyed across the county but now is a place that most of our kids have never heard of. If Stuckey’s were a computer company they would be described as being as influential as Apple is today and then seemingly becoming a Tandy 1000.
What brings a company to the place of irrelevance? Losing touch with the market, becoming indifferent and losing vision and passion for excellence. Did the world stop buying food, gas or pecan rolls? No, they just stop buying them at Stuckey’s .
What happens in the corporate world can happen in the church as well. People are still hungry for spiritual things, for God, but because many churches became religious; lost their hunger for God, they loose their passion and zeal and become hypocritical causing people to turn to other alternatives. If the church wants to be effective in this hour it must remain authentic, genuine and true to it’s core purpose; the good news about Jesus, the infilling of the Spirit and how it can change a life. Anything more or less and people will find another place to eat regardless of what you think of your heritage.
Three Things to Guard
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
I read this quote recently and it was a subtle reminder to make sure that my priorities stay in order. It simply said, there are three things in life that cannot be recovered: A word after it is said, a moment after it is missed and time after it is gone.
Three different circumstances, all with people who probably wish they had handled their moment a little differently. The first, an unnamed lawyer mockingly saying, “He saved others yet He cannot save Himself.” It is just a few moments later as the clouds turn dark, the earth begins to tremble and suddenly those words are so heavy upon his mind...oh to be able to retract them. The second, an unnamed thief on a cross next to Jesus; an opportunity of a lifetime awaits him, but instead of asking for mercy he curses and mocks...to have a second chance, to relive the moment. The third, any one of 380 people who could have and should have experienced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost; what was so important that they surrendered a period in time like no other.
While it is easy to point fingers at others, we too must be carful with the words we say, the moment we treasure and the time we have. Guard your words, value “moments“ in life and remember life is just a season, don’t miss the beauty of each season.
Looking for Some Shade?
The LORD is your keeper;
The LORD is your shade...
Shade, as we enter the 14th straight day of 90-degree heat, its something that we’re all looking for. We quickly exit the house or office and dart into an air-conditioned car or vice-versa. Those whose jobs keep them outside find themselves looking for two things, a cold cup of refreshing water and a place to shade themselves from the sun. Get to a shady place and you can get enough refreshment until your strength returns and you can continue on.
Shade is defined as “coolness caused by shelter from direct sunlight.” David, writing in the Psalms, understood that sometimes life gets intense. The struggle of a battle, the turmoil in the home or strife in a friendship; whatever it might be, it can bring intense heat, unbearable heat. In that moment David found that the Lord was his shade, his coolness from the heat of the situation. Trying to do the right thing or make the right decision only to feel intense heat. Take solace in the fact that the Lord is your shade. The children of Israel moving to the Land of Promise found themselves in the desert, a hot and dry place and who showed up? God, with a cloud, a place of shade, that overshadowed them through their difficult time. Facing intense heat, you’ve got a shelter saying, “I’ll be your shelter in this heat!“ You’ve got a God that is on your side and is your shade!
1 Kings 19:12
And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
Noise. We can get so accustom to it that we may fail to realize that it is there. Over the past few years I dealt with it daily. It wasn’t necessarily overwhelming, but a constant nuisance. I probably complained about it more than I should have and often when I did, Mary would respond with, “it really doesn’t bother me,” but a couple weeks after being in the new home she came to me and said, “I really didn’t realize how much the noise affected us.” You see without the noise there is a calm, quietness that has made our life less stressful and more peaceful. We find ourselves hearing the sounds of birds, the rush of wind blowing through the trees and even an occasional creek in the house; all which were there before but overwhelmed by noise.
Makes me wonder what might be in my personal life that blocks out the still small voice of the Lord? It doesn’t have to be something major; worry about the future, a friendship that is strained or the struggle to make ends meet…any number of the cares of life. Those cares block out the voice of God that is speaking, “cast your cares on me, trust in the Lord with all your heart or I will never leave you or forsake you.” What noise is blocking you from hearing Gods voice? Make it a point to get somewhere away from all the noise and listen to the Lord’s still small voice.
The steps of a man are established by the LORD,
And He delights in his way.
This week I’ve watched as the construction crews have prepared to shut down the road in front of the church. I’ve watched for months as they’ve removed power lines and relocated water pipes but this week things intensified. Heavy machinery was brought in along with load and loads of dirt and signs went up announcing that the road was closing. In a few days we’ll all be taking detours to get to the same place.
You may not realize it, but God closes roads and just like what has happened in front of the church, there are signs of change coming. When Jesus walked on this earth he started posting “signs” notifying the religious world that a change was coming. “Tear down this house in three days and I’ll build it up again“ and “if I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me,” all signs of a coming change. Why? To make access to Him easier. God’s purpose in your life is to always draw you closer to Him, He will close doors, put detours in your way, even construct new roads, just so that you can have better access to Him. Going through a construction zone in your life? No worry, it’s only to draw you closer to Him.
And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting,
and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
Weeds! Twenty-five men or so from LC have seen enough after yesterday’s workday. When I got home I was thinking about all the weeds (this was a forced thought because my back was aching) and it occurred to me that we had not planted one of those weeds. We planted trees, juniper, grasses, yews and day lilies, but no weeds. Yet yesterday, what had overrun our islands and our mulch beds were weeds; uninvited guest that had nearly taken over the beauty that we had purchased and planted.
Those islands and flowerbeds are like our individual lives. We come to God, repent, and are water and Spirit filled yet if we are not careful the “weeds” or cares of life encumber our lives. Most of the time we don’t plant them, they just appear. We are about the responsibilities of life; working, taking care of our families and enjoying activities and suddenly, if we’re not careful, our lives are full of weeds. What do you do when your life has become full of weeds? Same things the guys did yesterday; get on your knees, but instead of pulling weeds start praying. Ask God to help you clear out the things that have come between you and Him, your calling and your service to Him. Ask Him to help you realign your priorities, to get your home back in order and most importantly your soul back in order. Got weeds? Get on your knees and get to work!
Live in Freedom
2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
Freedom, to truly appreciate and understand freedom you probably would have to live without it; live in fear of your government and those who are supposed to protect you. Sure we celebrate the day, have cookouts and watch fireworks, but thankfully, we have not lived in bondage or fear of our government.
Friday morning Mary and I made our way to downtown Indy to watch as Maria Galvez became a U.S. citizen. The atmosphere permeated with patriotic aroma. American flags filled the tent, patriotic music blared from the speakers and over 90 people set nervously waiting to become a part of a nation where freedom was the priority. As the judge spoke, her words were clear, you are coming to a nation where you are free. Free to vote, free to pursue success and free to worship as you please.
As I observed those becoming citizens my mind reflected to another kind of freedom; the day I became free from sin. Pardon by the blood of Jesus, made free by his sacrifice, no longer bound to a life of sin and death, I live in freedom. So while you celebrate our countries freedom tomorrow, don’t forget you are free from something much greater; you are free from sin!
Is There a Cause
1 Samuel 17:29
And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?
I wanted to take this space today to thank Ashley Travis and the Creative Arts team for their fantastic job yesterday at the Fishers Freedom Festival. What happened yesterday was the compilation of vision, passion and hard work. A few months ago Ashley approached me and asked if she could approach the town of Fishers about our church being a part of the live stage at the Festival. From that moment until yesterday she and the team worked tirelessly getting ready. What happened was somewhat remarkable. People there for varied of reasons stopped to hear Christian music. They asked about our church, commented about the Spirit they felt and said how much they appreciated the fact that we had come to be a part of the festival.
What I appreciate so much is that Ashley saw an opportunity, gave herself to it and saw the cause. As David responded to a giant with, “is there not a cause,” so did Ashley with the challenge God gave her. Life Connections will always be about community, it will always be bigger than any one person and the success of the church will continue to blossom as more people see “the cause,” lay aside personal agendas, attitudes and get involved for the cause. What “cause” is waiting for the gifts and talents God gave you? Get involved! There is a cause!
Leave a Heritage
… choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: …but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
Being a dad is one of greatest blessings of my life. I enjoy the love and laughter that come along with the job. The job is full time and sometimes it seems overwhelming, but when all the dust has settled, what will matter most is not how much money I have, how successful I am, the social circles I ran in, but the heritage and the memories I have left my children. Those two things, memories and heritage, are where I’ve chosen to place my life’s investments in.
I want them to have memories of love that reminds them that their concerns were my highest priorities, a snowstorm meant a sled and a snowman and that laughter comes on a bike ride or over a bowl of popcorn and a game of sorry. The heritage I want to build in them and leave for them begins with a relationship with God. I want them to see in my every day life, that above everything else, wealth, education or personal success, they must have a walk with God, be filled with His Spirit and be ready for heaven. I want them to have it so embedded in their life that no matter what happens in their lives, they pass to the next generation and the next. I want them to have a heritage that says home is a fun and safe place, family is where memories are made and God’s house is where we find the answer to all life’s problems. As Joshua said as he came to the end of his life, let it be said of my life, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Happy Father’s Day!
Just Another Day
but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…
Just another day and another prayer meeting. For ten days they had prayed together, the crowd is smaller now. For many, doubt had crept in and they had chosen to go on with life, no longer believing the words of Jesus, “go tarry in Jerusalem.” Outside, festive plans were being made; another bountiful harvest meant a joyous celebration of Pentecost, a time to give thanks for God’s blessings on the crops. Jerusalem is a buzz, merchants are seeing dollars signs flash before their eyes and music fills the streets as people from all parts of the world filter in to give thanks. It’s early, about 9 a.m. Street vendors are out and commerce is beginning when suddenly there is a buzz about a strange happening in a place called the Upper Room. The Spirit has visited those who had remained, about 120, suddenly. Overwhelmed by the events they said those in prayer were acting like they had been set on fire, were speaking a different tongues and unable to explain the events, bystanders called them drunk. But this is no drunken stopper, but the beginning of a Spiritual experience that will turn the world upside down and remain a powerful force 2000 years later. The infilling of the Holy Spirit, an experience for their time and every generation thereafter.
Never diminishing the possibilities of what can happen in one day in one moment in prayer…it might just change your world.
I Was Just a Kid
but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…
The year was 1975. The place, a little store front building, downtown Danielson, CT. She was a little seven year old, sitting on the front row, earnestly listening to her dad preach an old fashion sermon on repentance. The altar was full that night; she was the last one in the altar seeking for the Holy Ghost. She had been tarrying for a long time when it finally happened; the tears would not stop. For at least 30 minutes she walked back forth speaking in a language she had never heard before. The feeling is hard to explain but the peace she never forgot! It was the most incredible experience of her life, one she hopes to never forget!
That little girl was me; that memory is one forever etched in my heart. There is something so incredibly heart warming to see children seeking for the Holy Ghost. I can see where Jesus was so moved by children, there innocence and desire to know more about Him and seek so earnestly for him, touches the heart of God. Today, yes, this service is about children but don’t hesitate to get involved with their experience, when you do, you can guarantee a heart changing experience yourself!
Open or Shut, Just Do the Right Thing
…Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut,
because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.
Risa and I were spending some quality time together recently when she spoke up in our conversation and said, “Mom, don’t try to open a door God hasn’t opened for you and don’t try to close a door God hasn’t closed yet.” At the time I thought, how reflective for a twelve year old. She really spoke into my heart.
Often, we hear that we should wait on God to open opportunities for us but how often do we reflect on “closing a door”. She really made me ponder this thought. God often opens doors for us and we step through the door with faith and confidence to a new dream, a new adventure or a new season in our lives with high expectations. Ready, with all of our heart, to fulfill what God spoke to us about. But all to soon, we meet opposition, things do not go as we expect and doubt settles in. We begin to doubt the door God opened in the first place so without His permission we begin to close the door. Our dreams crash without us ever seeing what God had intended for us to accomplish.
I want to encourage you today, if God opened a door for you, He wants to fulfill and finish what He started in you. Don’t allow the enemy to steal and run away with your God given opportunity!
Weathermen Can Get it Wrong, You Can’t
I Kings 22:7a
The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD,
but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil…
Sometimes I wish preachers could be like weatherman; all you have to do is predict, it doesn’t matter if you get it right or not, there’s no penalty. Take this last week for instance. As we left church the weatherman said there would be rain all week except on Monday and the weekend. How did that turn out? Here in Fishers it was nice every day with the exception of yesterday, it rained. They missed!
I wish we had that kind of latitude with what it took to get to heaven. It would make things a lot easier, just imagine them messages we might hear… repent regularly of your sins unless you feel justified, if you don’t feel like be baptized just stand out in the rain and say I love you Jesus and if you don’t feel like the Holy Spirit is essential then simply learn a few words in your favorite foreign language. Live however you would like and simply say, “ I’m a Christian,” that will be sufficient. Unlike weather forecasters you and I do not have that liberty, if we get it wrong there are eternal consequences. Don’t gamble with your salvation; make sure you’ve experienced the gospel that Simon Peter and the disciples taught. Regardless of what some may say, you will spend eternity somewhere; make sure your final destination is heaven.
A Note to Mom
Now she’s older but her investment in my life is even more appreciated. She gave me a heritage, taught me how to love God and gave me more memories than I can remember. On this Mother’s Day a tribute to my mom: thanks for making me the man that I am. I’m sure you’re not done yet!
She looks well to the ways of her household…
I thought they were all made like her. I broke her arm riding bikes; she broke her tailbone sledding with me. When she played baseball in the side yard everyone wanted her on their team because she could really hit the ball. Riding bus number 4 one day one of the kids said, “your mom is the coolest,” and everyone chimed in, “yeah she is!” A kid couldn’t feel any better knowing that you had the coolest mom. Whether it was hurt feelings or a cut that hurt, mom always had the answer. A hug for the hurt feeling and the swimming pool for cuts. When she decided the family needed a pool in the back yard and it wasn’t progressing the way she thought it should she had the answer, “find the water line.” We had dug deep and we’re getting close when I remember her words, “lets give it one more shovel,” and she did. Water and dirt went everywhere and that was enough for dad, a few months later we had a pool.
A Simple List
...and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your mind, and with all your strength.
Like the lawyer in Jesus’ day, many try to make living for Jesus difficult. Every once in a while I run across a list that simplifies walking with God. I really like this list of seven basic principles for a successful and fulfilled life. They are as follows:
1) Every Answer You Will Ever Need For a Joy Filled Life is in the Bible.
2) When You Put God First In Your Life, everything else will be added to it.
3) Pray, It Works!
4) To have a life free from worry – Trust in the Lord.
5) All Things (including tragedy) Work For Good, When You Love God.
6) The best way to happy life is through forgiveness.
7) God is not interested in your circumstances; He is interested in the condition of your soul.
A simple list, but seven principles that if you put in place can make a great difference in your perspective, your attitude, your life and your home.
He Is Risen
He is not here! Though they had rolled a stone in front of the opening, roped and sealed the entrance and put guards in front of the tomb, when Mary came to visit the angel proclamation the unthinkable. Jesus had risen. The guards were gone, the rope and seal lay on the ground, the stone rolled away and Jesus was gone! There was no news that the Pharisees and those who despised Jesus could have hated to hear more. He had predicted it and now he had fulfilled it; Jesus had returned from the grave! All that remained was an empty tomb that became the icon for all who need hope. If Jesus, who had healed the sick, opened the blinded eye and caused the lame to walk could return from the grave, then there is no situation that was beyond hope.
What do we celebrate today? A cross? No, an empty tomb! Look in it, see it empty and know that whatever you are going through, whatever sickness has invaded your body or whatever trial is going on in your home, that just as Jesus overcame death He can overcome in your situation. Today is a day of hope, a day of celebration, He is risen!
You Have A Purpose
…And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?"
As Jesus went about the process of choosing his 12 disciples, he chose men that were very diverse in life experiences, social standing and personality. Jesus understood that each had a specific ministry that they would be needed for. At Life Connections we view those who are a part of our church in the same light as Jesus, that those who are here have a purpose, a ministry that is important to what God wants to accomplish in Fishers.
This Saturday Life Connections will host over 100 kids and their parents at our annual Bagels and Bunnies Community event. What makes this event so special is that over the years many families have returned to be a part of our Easter services the following day. For this event to be a success we need many people to get involved. What can you do? Use the gifts and talents God has given you to make Bagels and Bunnies a great success. We need smile’s, talkers, greeters, bagel slicers and juice pourers. Who knows who you might meet that your personality or life experience might impact. You are important to the success of the gospel at LC. Get involved!
Get the T-Shirt... or Not!
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible…
Too many times we settle for the mundane when there is the opportunity for the majestic. The past few days we spent some time in Gatlinburg. Pulling off the interstate you are overwhelmed with shows, go-kart rides and restaurants; get into Gatlinburg and mobs of people are walking the streets looking for the special gift (often a T-shirt), buying fudge or paying an inflated price to see a few cars or a weak show. Only if you travel further do you get to see the majestic. Not man made, it was the original attraction that brought people to the area…the mountains. Drive a few miles and you can hike to a beautiful falls or have lunch near a scenic river filled with rocks you can climb on. Unfortunately too many people sit at McDonalds, a pancake house or a place blasting you with lights and music and never see God’s masterpieces.
Daily life can be similar. We get consumed with the job, climbing the social ladder and we miss God’s gift of family and the simple pleasures of life that surround us. Don’t get caught in the mundane and miss the majestic things in life…. they are spectacular if you take the time to enjoy them.
Spring Is Near!
Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender
and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near;
The calendar said that Spring arrived two weeks ago, by the temperatures we’ve had and the snow that flew last week, we would be hard pressed to convince anyone that it was indeed Spring. While the weather says winter, if you would look closely there are signs that say it is truly Spring. Tulips are showing their colors, trees are budding and the grass is starting to turn. So yes, while there is still snow flying, spring is near.
The changing of the seasons reminds me of change that often happens in someone’s heart. Often we look at people and say, “winter.” They are cold and indifferent, but if you look carefully, often they are beginning to show signs of change, maybe not so much externally, but internally; a softer heart, a more joyful countenance or maybe a different attitude toward life in general. All signs of a change in their lives, “spring” has come and growth is happening. What to do to help the process? Water their lives with prayer, sprinkle seeds of hope and faith in their lives and finally, be an encourager. Want to see growth in someone? See the positive when the climate doesn’t. Spring is near!
Who is Bezalel?
Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah,
31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding with knowledge and with all kinds of skills…
Abraham, David, Samuel, Simon Peter, Paul and Bezalel. Bezalel? A Biblical name many have never heard of, in fact I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a message preached on him or a Bible study taught about his life. Probably few could find him in the Bible, much less tell his story. So who is Bezalel? He is the builder of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. While most know that Moses received the instructions from God and was God’s spokesman, it is Bezalel that God used to build the physical tabernacle. How does it happen? One key, God filled Bezalel with His Spirit for His purpose.
I mention Bezalel because I believe there are men and women at Life Connections that are like Bezalel, he has filled you for a purpose, you’re not here just to fill a seat or be a number, but someone that God is going to use to help accomplish a great work in this community. He has filled you, not just with His spirit, but wisdom, understanding, knowledge and skill to be a blessing for His kingdom. Bezalel, not a household name but definitely a name that God knows!
A New Take on “Just Do It!”
The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent
that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.
The self-check out lane was getting longer. You could sense tension in the atmosphere. I felt for her. She was putting the groceries back in her cart she couldn't afford; everything within me wanted to step in and help her...I had too, my heart was thumping. As embarrassed, as I am to admit it, I had never done this before; you know, stepping forward to pay for a stranger’s groceries, but somehow courage got a hold of me. Stepping to the register I said, “I want to take care of these groceries for you.“ Having no idea of the cost, I did notice everything in her cart had a clearance sticker; she was trying to be frugal. Glancing at the register the total was a meager $24.36. That's all it took to help someone destitute and struggling. To me it was worth a million dollars, I'd do it a hundred times over. Overwhelmed, her tears fell; I think more for thankfulness than embarrassment. It was truly a humbling moment for both of us.
I share this story, not for glory, but for those needing the courage to reach out; it doesn't take much, just swallowing our pride and being willing and available when He whispers..."Just do it".
Time Change or Life Change
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is atime for every event under heaven--
Time Change. I won’t bore you with my personal feelings on the matter, but essentially it gives man the ability to move light. You would think that “moving light” would be a complex process, something that only scientist or chemist could do, but without too much effort, just a few adjustments, we all moved light from morning to evening last night.
Repentance works the same way. There are those who want to make it hard and complicated, but repentance is simply a change in direction, you were walking after the desires of the flesh, but with a contrite and sincere heart you change directions and start walking in the ways that please God. Simple, you don’t have to be a theologian or Bible scholar, its available to everyone and it can happen in seconds. Just as suddenly as we change time and there is more light to do yard work, ride bikes and have barbeques, with one change of direction in your heart you will find you life filled with more love, joy and peace. Making things right with God brings a whole new perspective to life, improves your home, but most importantly starts you on a walk toward God. Have you made the change yet? If not, why not start today. And oh yes, just like the time change, repentance is not a once in lifetimes thing, we have to do it regularly!
Seven Years of Life
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding
Seven years ago two very nervous people and there five and seven year old kids stepped into Brook School Elementary for their first Sunday service. With a little bit of ignorance, a bit more faith and about 40 people Life Connections launched. Our mindset came from Gamliel’s words in Acts, “if God is in it, nothing will stop it.” That day we had no idea where the journey would take us and could not imagine what has transpired. Today, we must admit it’s much the same, we’re not exactly sure where He will lead, but if He’s in it, everything is going to be okay.
As we celebrate our seventh year of operation we reflect back to yesterday and muse as to what God will do in the future. The past is filled with incredible miracles, wonderful worship, a handful of disappointments, much laughter, but most of all, many great memories. We’ve moved from the elementary school to a 300-seat auditorium and seen the congregation grow from 40 to over 200. Our future looks bright as well. We expect to see many to be water and Spirit baptized, more remarkable miracles and to the expansion of our current facilities. As you will hear in our theme song today, we have put our trust in God, and we believe that if He’s brought us this far He will take us farther.
Just End a Winner
…Well done, thou good and faithful servant:…enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
It started out with the two teams trading baskets; each taking small leads. At the half it was a one-point game. Gentry’s team came out on fire in the second half and with eight minutes to go it looked to be a run away, but in the blink of an eye an eight-point lead became a eight point deficit. With 60 seconds left I am pacing in the stands and by 30 seconds left I am ready to leave, Gent’s team is down two and the other team has the ball, dribbling out the clock, they run down the clock…10, 9, 8, but then suddenly a steal, a full court pass to the shortest kid on the court and with a long range bomb as the clock striked 0.0 a loss becomes a victory. If there can be pandemonium in a junior high tournament, I now can say, “I’ve seen it.”
Lesson learned? It’s the words from Matthew’s gospel above. It’s not how you start, it not real important how well you do in the middle; it’s how you finish. Your life may have started out so poorly, may have had some ebbs and flows in the middle, but as long as you are ready at the end, it really doesn’t matter. There will be pandemonium when you finish and hear, well done thy good and faithful servant…welcome home!
Flat Tires and Flat Lives
… let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
Two weeks, two flat tires! What I’ve learned is the obvious, having three good tires means nothing when one is bad, no matter how nice the car, if you don’t fix the flat you don’t go anywhere and finally, how you got the flat is really irrelevant. There is just one thing to do, change the tire.
What is true of tires is true spiritually too. One “flat area” in your walk with God impedes your progress. It doesn’t really matter how nice of a Christian you may look like, how well you may be doing in other areas of your life; if you’ve got a “flat” in your life you probably aren’t making much progress spiritually. What to do? Do what I had to do to get my car going again… make the change. Identify the problem and fix it. Get to an altar, repent of your failure, ask for forgiveness and change what you’re doing with God’s help. Get back on your spiritual journey, there’s too much your missing in your spiritual journey to be setting on the side of the road. Great things are just ahead!
Just Keep Chip’in!
And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died:
Ice! We all have gained an appreciation for it around here after the past couple of weeks. We have slipped, slid and fell. We tried to remove it with garden hoes, axes, sledgehammers, shovels and rumor has it even power washers. I might add, that whatever process we’ve tried all have been without much success. Through this whole process I think we’ve all learned one thing, removing ice is a painstakingly slow process that takes lots of time, even days if not weeks.
As I chopped, scraped and shoveled I reflected that as difficult and time-consuming as it was to remove ice, that there are things in our lives that mirror the ice I was dealing with. There are things that are a process. A little here, a little there and over a process of time, maybe months or years, the change we desired finally begins to shape. Whatever you may be trying to change in your life, keep praying, fasting and reading (chopping, scraping and shoveling)…you’re making a difference, things are changing!
The Trial and the Testimony
1 Peter 1:7
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth,
though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
I wish every situation we faced were visited by a miracle. Unfortunately, that is not always the case; some times God lets us go through the trial or test. While there are those who seem to be of the persuasion that we can pray or fast every problem into a deliverance or miracle, it is just not the case.
Need proof? God allowed Daniel to go into the lion’s den; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to go into a fiery furnace and Jonah into the belly of a big fish. Why? Because by going through, their faith was bolstered, they received a testimony and they serve as an example that God does let you go through some things.
Going through something? Discouraged because God hasn’t delivered you? Don’t question your faith, your prayers or God, you may be right where God wants you…in a trial that will strengthen your faith and your testimony.
The Process of Being Formed
My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you--
Formed. It is not something that happens instantly; forming something takes time, it is a process. Watch a potter working with a piece of clay; molding, shaping and reshaping. It is a process. Watch artist paint on a canvas, a little color here, a little color there, shading and toning. Once again it is a process. Watch a sketch artist design a picture; a line here, shading there heavier in some places, lighter in others. It is a painstakingly slow process. Watch any of these three artists and you will realize that there are some things that just take time.
In Galatians Paul says that he longs for Christ to be formed in them. Note that he is writing to people who have experienced the new birth, yet though they have been saved they are not yet like Jesus. Being like Jesus is a process. It takes times. He breaks, bends, molds and refines us through successes, failures, good times and bad. There are times when we struggle in the process and other times are quite smooth. Regardless of what may be happening in your life, His goal is the same in each of us; to make us like Him.
Time for Change
You provided bread from heaven for them for their hunger,
You brought forth water
from a rock for them for their thirst,
And You told them to enter in order to possess
Change; not a word that we necessarily like, but definitely a part of life. How many of you are still wearing the same clothes you were wearing ten years ago. Even if you could still get in them, styles have changed and you have followed. Driving the same car you drove ten years ago? Probably not. Too many miles, to many problems and probably to much rust. Life makes us make changes, it moves on and we must also, but how about in your spiritual life?
The children of Israel looked into the Promise Land and decided they would rather stay where they were than face new challenges. The result, they spent 40 years wandering aimlessly. They decided they would be satisfied with wilderness when a land with abundant blessing awaited. God brought them out to bring them to something better. I wonder how many of us live the same kind of life. God saves to bring us to a better place. Yet many live year after year at the same place or circling in their wilderness. I have a challenge for you in 2011, do something bold, trust God, go somewhere spiritually. Make some spiritual changes.
So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications,
with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed…
What is something that you don’t enjoy doing? Washing the dishes, taking out the trash, mowing the lawn: the list might be endless. Why do we do them? Because we understand the benefits of doing things we don’t enjoy doing. If you don’t take out the trash or do the dishes, bugs and stench show up. Fail to mow the yard, weeds will appear and the HOA will send you a nasty letter. Likewise, while we may not enjoy going on a fast, there are definitely spiritual benefits. Ever wonder why fasting is so difficult? Could it be because Satan knows the benefit? Fasting breaks the will of the flesh, defeats Satan with the tool he used to bring the original sin into the world and brings fresh fire and anointing to your prayers. While fasting may never be enjoyable there are incredible spiritual benefits. Don’t allow the enemy of your soul talk you out of participating in LifeFast this week; all he is trying to do is steal your blessings in 2011.
A New Piece of Paper
Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it?
With the entrance of the New Year, it reminds me of when I was a kid at school. If I messed up my paper the teacher would give me a new piece of paper. What a relief it was. I knew I had messed up, knew that the mistakes were beyond erasing, and so, when the teacher put the new piece of paper in front of me I felt a new sense of hope. I could start over, hopefully not make the same mistakes and produce what I had really imagined in the first place. There is nothing like getting a second chance!
As we enter the New Year I hope it brings new dreams and hopefully new resolve. For some it may be to take on a new challenge, loose some weight or make a change in your personal life, whatever it might be, the New Year is a great time to get a fresh start. I hope your list includes some spiritual commitments. Building a more committed and faithful walk with God. I would love to see every person at Life Connections resolve to being more committed to being at both our Sunday and Wednesday services along with our monthly prayer meetings. I hope many will become more committed to personal devotional times and to making our homes more spiritual. Lets take this New Year and create something beautiful on the new piece of paper God has given us.
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