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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Don't quit

Someone, somewhere needs to read this blog today.
 
My word to you?  Don't quit.
 
Trust in God during life's disappointments, and don't quit.
 
Some years ago, Kris Kristofferson made a hit record with a song called, "Why Me?".
 
The lyrics began, "Why me, Lord?  What  have I ever done to deserve even one of the pleasures of I have known?"
 
We've all asked the "why" question.
 
Hear are some clichés that I hear frequently (in the midst of disappointments):
 
"Laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry alone."  That's not true.  Crying will draw a bigger crowd any day than laughter.  Can you say the name "Oprah"?
 
"Every day and every way the world is getting better and better."  Okay, have you watched the nightly news lately?
 
"There is a light at the end of every tunnel."  Wow.  There is probably darkness back there at the end of that tunnel.  And the light you see is probably the light of an onrushing train.
 
And finally there is this:  Things are never as bad as they seem."  Dream on!  Things are often worse than they seem!
 
Are you now encouraged?  :)
 
How do you keep going when you want to quit?
 
Have the right perspective.  Know who you are in God.
 
Only God, who is sovereign and living, can be trusted.  We must learn to be willing to trust him even when we cannot penetrate the darkness around us or the hurt within us.
 
Every day you trust in things you can't see.  You wake up in the morning, wipe the sleep from your eyes, and put your feet on the floor.
 
Scientists tell us that's not a floor - it is a whirling mass of atoms.  And this whirling mass of atoms is flying around the world, and the world is spinning. 
 
Now then, if you thought of it that way  - you would jump right back into bed.  Right?  But what do you in actuality do?  You get up, put your feet on the floor trusting that it will stand - and you do that every day. 
 
The Psalmist writes in Psalms 73:28, "But as for me, it is good to be near God.  I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds."
 
The secret of life is not what you have but whose you are.  And that determines what you will become.
 
It is not in what you possess materially but in what you have inwardly.
 
Your strength, my strength, is not found in my anger or disappointment in the inequities of life - life breaking its promises to us - but in our nearness to God who is stronger than your pain and a light for any darkness.
 
You may be angry today, bewildered - and you can't figure out the "why"?  What do we do?  We trust in God.
 
We draw near to God and He will draw near to you - and we keep on keeping on.
 
Don't quit.
 
Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Worry

At best, I am a recovering worrier.
 
I can worry with the best of them.
 
What is worry?  It is assuming responsibility that God never intended for me to have.
 
It is trying to control the uncontrollable.
 
We all worry about something - and at its core - it is essentially a control issue. 
 
Worry is trying to control the uncontrollable.
 
We can't control our health so we worry about our health.  We can't control our jobs, so we worry about our jobs.  We can't control our economy, so we worry about the economy.  We can't control our children, so we worry about our children.  We can't control the future, so we worry about the future. 
 
Worry says, "if it is to be, it is up to me."
 
I would suggest that all worry does it make you and I miserable.
 
This coming Sunday morning - I am going to share a teaching entitled, "How to break free from the prison of fear." 
 
We will be learning and studying principles of dealing with fear and worry.
 
One of them is this:  Live one day at a time. 
 
Today is all you have.
Today is all you need.
Today is all you can handle. 
 
Some people put more faith in their fears than the do in God.  "Well, if I can just be fearful enough - it might go away."
 
No, my friends, let's put our faith in God.
 
As someone once said, "Every evening I turn my worries over to God - He's going to be up all night anyway."
 
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Miracles

I have been thinking a lot about miracles.
 
We as Christians believe in miracles - and we expect God to do the miraculous.
 
Everyone wants a miracle.  Everyone needs a miracle from time to time.
 
We as a church are beginning to dialogue concerning the building of a new sanctuary.  In order to do so - we need to take a huge chunk out of our current mortgage.  In short, we need a miracle!
 
Here is what I know about miracles:  Miracles are not accidents.
 
There are no coincidences in the economy of God.
 
Miracles happen to people who need them, want them and even more importantly - reach for them.
 
I would suggest that you are never as far from a miracle as it first appears.
 
To see a miracle, ask yourself first:  What do I need?  Many people don't like where they are, but don't know where they want to be.  Find out first of all - where do I need to be?  What miracle do I need in my life?
 
Stand on the promises of God.  Search the Word for scriptures that will confirm the miracle that God wants for you in your life.
 
Ask for the miracle
 
Don't let the doubters "get you down."  Don't let the critics push you into lowering your sights and accept things, "the way they are."  Dare to dream.  It is hard to fly with the eagles when you are hanging around Turkeys.
 
Speak creatively.  Stop discussing your fears, doubts and unbelief "only".  Begin to think and speak in a way that opens up the window for God to move in and fill  you with faith. 
 
Visualize yourself with the miracle already taking place.  Begin to thank God for the miracle as if it has already taken place.
 
Be persistent.  Don't give up in praying for that miracle.
 
When God does do a miracle in your life - let us know - we would love to hear your story!
 
Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:
 
The highlight of my weekend?
 
Throwing a donut across the sanctuary and just "nailing" Kyle McNamara - and he caught it!
 
I guess I still "got it"!  :) :)
 
There was such a great spirit of community in our services yesterday.  I know that you are like me in expressing the fact that I love my church family!
 
Remember:  Spiritual transformation is always from the inside out - it is always an "inside job".
 
Walking in righteousness is always the result of what God is doing in my mind; my spirit; my soul.
 
My encouragement to you today is to spend at least as much time on the "inner you" as the "outer you."
 
I really appreciate the faithfulness of all of our volunteers - Sunday after Sunday.  From the "coffee and connection" group to the greeters, to the ushers, to the worship team, etc - we are thankful for your time and help!
 
Love God.  Love people. 
 
Come on Sunday morning.  Serve in a ministry.  Attend a life group.
 
Please note:  Water Baptism.  May 10, 2015.  Second service.  If you know of someone who would like to be baptized in water - please encourage them to contact the church office at:  (708)  3852770.
 
The White Sox have started out with a 4-7 record.  Ugh.
 
It is always so green in April - love it.
 
Could I ask you to consider doing something?  Please consider bringing someone new to one of our services this coming Sunday.  I am going to speak on the subject of:  "How to break out of the prison of fear." 
 
Another thought from yesterday.  Be intentional about what you feed your "inner you."   Garbage in - Garbage out.
 
Love you all.......

Thursday, April 16, 2015

accountability

One of the practices we talk quite a bit about at Stone Church is accountability.
 
Accountability is so important in our walk with Christ.
 
Let me give you a definition of accountability:
 
To be regularly answerable for each of the key areas of our lives to qualified people.
 
The Bible says in Proverbs 27:6, "The kisses of an enemy may be profuse, but faithful are the wounds of a friend."
 
Proverbs 27:17, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." 
 
I was reading today of an iceberg - which is one of nature's most beautiful and dangerous phenomenons. 
 
When you look at an iceberg, what you see of these masses of broken off glaciers is beautiful - like the "best foot" each of us puts forward with our friends.
 
But only one eighth to one tenth of an iceberg is visible - the rest is hidden below the surface of the water.
 
The visible you is where you and I talk on a cliché level.  We talk about the news, sports and the weather - the latest sales at such and such a store.
 
The "real you"  is below the surface.  That consists of the unexamined life, our secret thought life, the purposes, priorities and goals of our lives, our ambitions, motives, relationships, the use of our time and money, our moral and ethical behavior, the emotions of pride, fear, anger, problems, suffering and discouragement.
 
Like an iceberg, the beautiful part of our lives is that tenth or so which people can see.  What's below the surface, however, is where we live our real lives - lives often hidden from the scrutiny of other Christians.
 
The jagged subsurface edges of our secret lives often rip open our relationships and damage our spiritual lives.  What is unseen - can sink you!
 
That's why we need a format and setting to talk and share about the "subsurface you".
 
We all need somebody who loves us but is not impressed by us.  Somebody to whom we can be accountable.  Somebody who's willing to keep you honest, who is willing to say, "Hey, you are neglecting your spouse, and don't give me any guff!"
 
Just a thought for a Thursday.
 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Job contentment

Let me start out with a really, really negative statement:
 
It is rare that you find someone who feels contentment with their job.
 
I can only speak for we guys - most men (to explain us to you ladies) who do like their jobs usually like the thrill of the deal or the satisfaction of beginning and completing a project. 
 
God created us to enjoy the thrill - to feel His pleasure in our work.
 
The challenge to that is this:  the "thrill of the deal" is not the entire purpose for work.  Going from one deal fix to the next in search of contentment.
 
What can make a difference?  Work for God, not for man.
 
Working with God in mind always gives purpose and meaning to what we do.
 
What is the secret of job contentment?
 
The secret of job contentment is not getting what you want, but redefining what you need. 
 
What we want is sometimes not what we need.
 
And what we need is sometimes not what we want.
 
So, I would encourage you to think about these questions (to both men and women) in your work.
 
Am I working to glorify God or myself?  Ambition is not wrong - but am I ambitious to please God or to please myself?
 
Am I walking in God's will in my work?  Is this what God wants me to do?  When I am walking in God's will, no matter what circumstances come my way - I am at peace.
 
Am I working to please my boss, or am I working to please God?  Remember:  At the end of the day, it is the Lord you are serving.  Obviously, we are to be faithful to our work and serve our boss because he or she holds God's proxy as our employer.  But God still owns the company, he owns everything. 
 
So, redefine what you need - not what you want:
 
Are you glorifying God?
Are you walking in His will?
Are you working to ultimately please God?
 
Just a thought for a Wednesday.
 
 
 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Avoiding regrets in raising children

There is not a parent alive that doesn't have regrets in the way they raised their children.
 
No parent is perfect.
 
Each time I hear the song, "The Cat's In The Cradle" I am saddened. 
 
I could have done better (I am just thankful that our kids are doing well).
 
Paul writes in Ephesians 6:4, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."
 
I thought I might give you some tips (principles) on how to raise your children without having regrets.
 
Let them be kids.  Dr. Dobson says that our role is to help them through childhood.  Kids need the freedom to be kids.
 
Protect them from the world - but do not insulate them. 
 
To totally isolate your child from the world is lazy parenting.  We as parents are to take hold of the reins of spiritual leadership in the home - and guide them into spiritual, godly values.
 
However, how do we learn how to make good choices?  By making bad choices.  I would encourage you to give children the ability to make choices as early as possible - while you are there to "pick up the pieces" and encourage them and teach them and share with them a better way.
 
At the same time, put parameters around what your children watch, see, experience and feel.  I don't think that I need to persuade you that four to seven hours a day of television versus thirty seven seconds of conversation with Dad is a no-brainer.
 
Encourage, don't embitter.
 
Dads, especially are to get a handle on this.  Angry fathers are everywhere.  Dads, however your day went, when you come home, don't take your day out (passive aggressively) on your children.  Look at them as fragile tea cups.  In need of your protective care.
 
How do you spell love?  T.I.M.E.  As Lee Iacocca once said, "No one on their deathbed says, 'I wish I had spent more time with my business.'"  Quality time and Quantity time are needed.
 
Pray, pray, pray.  Pray that your children will draw closer to Christ.  You can make no greater contribution to the well-being of your children than to intercede for them in daily prayer.  Pray that God will give you wisdom as a parent.
 
Just some thoughts for a Tuesday.

Monday, April 13, 2015

How Jesus made decisions

Have you ever wondered how Jesus made decisions?
 
Let me give you a few thoughts on that.
 
In Matthew 4, Matthew describes how Jesus was tempted by the devil (an actual temptation from the devil himself).
 
It's interesting that the first temptation Satan threw at Jesus dealt with food.  If you remember - that's the temptation Adam and Eve experienced (the whole apple thing).  Satan probably thought:  It worked the first time - why not try it again?  Satan said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."  Matthew 4:3
 
How did Jesus respond?  "It is written:  "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes form the mouth of God."  Matthew 4:4
 
How did Jesus make a good decision?  He lived by the Word of God.
 
Every decision we make must first of all be bounced off of the Scriptures.  What does God's Word have to say about it?
 
Then Satan tempted Jesus to jump off the roof of the temple.  That was a temptation to test God.  Would God save Him or not?
 
How did Jesus respond?  "It is also written:  "Do not put the Lord your God to the test."  Matthew 4:7
 
The principle of right decision making here is to never put God in a position in which He "has" to save you from your own foolish decisions.
 
There is a huge difference between faith and presumption.
 
Don't place yourself in a position that requires a miracle - unless you know that you know that - that is where God wants you to be!
 
I can't throw myself off a roof and expect God to save me - the laws of gravity come into play.
 
Lastly, Satan tempted Jesus with whom to worship.  Was he going to worship God or was he going to worship Satan. 
 
Whom are you serving this day?  Money?  Position?  Power?  I always say that in anything in life - job transfer, etc.....the first point in making a decision is this:  Is God in this?  Will God be glorified?  Will it help me serve God in a better and more fulfilling way?
 
Again, Jesus did not disappoint.  He said this:  "Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only."  Matthew 4:10
 
When  you are making a decision, always worship God and serve Him only - and everything else will fall into place.
 
So, in summary:
 
Make decisions according to the Word of God
Avoid foolish decisions that test God
Avoid decisions that reduce your worship and service to God. 
 
Just a thought for a Monday.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

It is finished

Have you ever left anything unfinished?
 
I have.
 
A half read book.  An abandoned diet.  Phone calls never returned. 
 
But it can be more serious than that:  The abandoned child.  The wrecked marriage.  The bills never paid.  The promises never kept.
 
There is one person in history who did not leave any unfished business.  His name is Jesus. 
 
Jesus could say with accuracy, "I have finished everything I set out to do."
 
As Jesus passed from this life to the next, he cried out (actually the Greek implies he roared out), "It is finished!"
 
Jesus is implying, "I did exactly what I set out to do!"
 
The verb is in the perfect tense in the Greek which simply speaks of an action which has been completed in the past with results continuing into the present. 
 
In other words, Jesus is saying, "What I did still has a present effect on your life today  - in 2015!"
 
"It is finished in the past, it is still finished in the present and it will remain finished in the future."
 
So - "It is finished" is not a cry of "giving up out of exhaustion," but it is a cry of victory!
 
It is finished!  It is paid in full!
 
"Paid in full" means that once a thing is paid for,  you never have to pay for it again.
 
That also is a powerful truth from this one word.
 
As you come to God and confess anger, it is finished - it is paid in full.  You are forgiven.
 
As you come to God and confess gossip, it is finished - it is paid in full.  You are forgiven.
 
As you come to God and confess lying, it is finished - it is paid in full.  You are forgiven.
 
As you come to God and confess pride, it is finished - it is paid in full.  You are forgiven. 
 
The work of salvation is now complete
 
Since it is finished, all that you have to do, all that I have to do (after confession) is to accept the forgiveness that God freely gives us.
 
Just a thought for a Thursday.
 

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Just a thought for parents

I read today that it takes 15 years for an olive plant to become an olive tree. 
 
In the Garden of Gethsemane over in Israel, there are two-thousand-year-old olive trees that still produce olives.
 
Their roots run deep.
 
The Mount of Olives is a mountain covered with olive trees that have lived for centuries.  When those trees were saplings, they were nurtured so that they have remained productive.
 
That really is a primary goal for parenting.  Raising up and nurturing you child so that when they are "grown" and "leave the house" they are productive godly men and women.
 
Some suggestions for this:
 
1.  The ultimate goal of parenting is not to please your child but to do what is best for them.  If a parent pleases the child all of the time, the child is the parent.
 
Proverbs 13:24, "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." 
 
I might receive (as a parent) some momentary relief by "just letting little Johnny have his way," - but those short moments of emotional pause can build up - and soon little Johnny is a little demon.  :) :)
 
Mom and dads, it is becoming a cultural norm to place our children in the position of being an idol.  Only God is to be worshipped.
 
2.  The job (and it is work) of a parent is to be the filter on their homes.  Water filters keep impurities from getting into what you drink.  Parents are the filters for their homes so junk from the world is not inculcated in the life of their children.
 
3.  All of this is wrapped around one word:  Relationship.  Here's the principle:  Rules without relationship will always lead to rebellion. 
 
Being the parent (when it comes to discipline) and setting filters on the "input from the world" they receive, will always be more palatable, better received and understood by a child who understands that their parents love them unconditionally. 
 
And that comes through having a strong relationship. 
 
Your kids don't care what you know - or ultimately what you insist on - as long as they know that you care.  And love.  And are concerned.
 
Just a thought for a Wednesday.
 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

forsaken

Did you know that you can feel lonely in the midst of a crowd?
 
Mother Teresa once wrote:  "We have drugs for people with diseases like leprosy.  But these drug do not treat the main problem, the disease of being unwanted.  that's what my sisters hope to provide.  The sick and poor suffer even more from rejection than material want.  Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty."
 
And when do we find loneliness the most difficult to handle?
 
What time of day? 
 
At night.
 
Nobody wants to go to bed alone.
 
That's why they leave the radio or T.V. on - that's why many get into bed with someone they don't even know.
 
That's why sexually transmitted diseases are soaring, people don't want to go to bed alone.
 
When you are alone at night, your fears tend to exaggerate.  Creaks in the house sound worse when you are all along.
 
You start imagining the shower scene from the movie Psycho.
 
Your mind goes into overdrive when you are alone.
 
People will admit to a lot of problems in today's world - but for some reason hesitate to mention that they are lonely.
 
Forsaken.
 
Feeling like no one cares.
 
Even or especially Jesus on the cross cried out (actually roared), "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"
 
If the cry of a heart of someone who feel abandoned.  As an orphaned child.  A single parent struggling to make ends meet.
 
The mother standing over the bed of a sick child.
 
The father out of work.
 
The prisoner in his cell.
 
A wife abandoned by her husband.
 
Singles who celebrate their birthday alone.
 
The person at rock bottom who has no where else to go.
 
What can I offer you today?  The very same Jesus who died on the cross that day.
 
He is with you, always with you wherever you go - and in whatever circumstance you are going through - and He understands your feelings of abandonment and loneliness.
 
Why not pray something like this?
 
"I would ask you to fill this ache, this void, this loneliness in my life.  I am trusting you to do it.  There is nobody else to whom I can turn.  I turn completely and totally to you."
 
Just a thought for a Tuesday.
 

Monday, March 30, 2015

A blessing in disguise

One of my heroes is Winston Churchill.
 
The "man of the hour" in World War II.
 
A leader who rose to the occasion.
 
Extremely flawed, but extremely gifted at the same time.
 
Winston Churchill lead England through the war, inspiring and encouraging the British to overcome the dreaded Nazi's.
 
And how did England reward him?  By promptly voting him out of office after the war ended.
 
The story goes that Churchill wasn't feeling too great about this and his ever patient wife shared with him that it might be a "blessing in disguise."
 
Winston Churchill responded as only he could by saying, "at the moment it is certainly very well disguised."
 
But a few months later he saw it differently.  He said, "I felt a great sense of relief - others having to face the hideous problems of the aftermath - it may all indeed be a "blessing in disguise."
 
I would suggest that you and I all face problems and adversity - that in the mid-term to long-term - end up being blessings in disguise.
 
Last year I hurt my back (moving furniture in the foyer).
 
I couldn't even stand up straight (some of you might remember that).  I ended up going to the chiropractor, who sent me to my doctor for some steroids - to ease the inflammation in my lower back.
 
The steroids irritated an my stomach - I ended up at Silver Cross hospital where I lost half my blood and had two blood transfusions.
 
While there, in the midst of all of the testing, the doctors found a G.I.S.T tumor in my stomach - and the size of a small lemon.
 
Another doctor ended up taking it out - and today all is well.
 
Do you see how "me hurting my back" was a "blessing in disguise?"
 
While none of us are calling for problems or like to be in the midst of trials, many times God allows adversity to come our way to protect us - to keep us from something far more dangerous or something that could be worse in our lives.
 
Just a thought for a Monday.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Matching up the visible you with the real you

The reality of it is this:  There is the visible you and the real you.
 
The visible you is the you that everybody sees and interacts with.
 
In a certain sense, we allow people to see the "visible you" by learning how to act and speak in order to fit in with people, in both small and large group settings.
 
While some people have the ability to "fit in" to any kind of group, most people only stay in groups that they are comfortable, in part because it takes a lot of energy to relate to different types of people.
 
The visible you is the known you. 
 
But the visible you is different from the real you.
 
The real you is the you that is known by God.
 
We are who we are in our minds first, before we speak or act.
 
Our speech and our actions are the result of our thinking.
 
Here's what I know:  You and I are only as spiritual (real) as our thought life.
 
Pointed question:  What if you and I were to put all of our thoughts from this week on the screens in the chapel?  The answer is:  we wouldn't.  It would be embarrassing, disconcerting and too vulnerable for any of us to handle.
 
Jeremiah 17:9 tells us, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?"
 
That is an insightful verse.
 
What is implies is this:  To protect our self-image we kind, trick and fool ourselves into believing that the visible you is the real you.
 
But to see ourselves as we really are, we must acknowledge that we need God's help to do so.
 
The mind is where the battle takes place.  It's a battle between the flesh and the spirit.
 
Ephesians 6:12 describes the battle for the mind:  "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the power of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." 
 
So my thought today is this:  Spend some time examining your life.  Is the "real you" matching up with the "visible you"? 
 
Let the Holy Spirit help you with this today.
 
Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The stronghold of unforgiveness

Jesus says it plainly:  If we want forgiveness from God - we must forgive.
 
Easy to say, hard to do.
 
Grudges die hard.
 
Time does not heal all wounds.
 
Time can only make the wounds more ingrained in our spirit.
 
Here's what I know:  Even if I have suffered a horrible, terrible injustice, I am still responsible for my response to that cruelty in my life.
 
Why?  Because unforgiveness keeps me bound.  It is the strongest of strongholds in the life of a Christian.
 
And, to be candid with you, it is at the core of most of the issues that Christians are struggling with - or minimally, at the core of their "dry season" or stagnation in their walk with God.
 
During the Nazi occupation of Holland, Corrie Ten Boom and her family were sent to a concentration camp for hiding Jews in their home.  (She was Dutch).
 
She soon came to hate the guard who mocked and sneered at their naked bodies as they were taken to the showers.  His leering face seemed forever seared into her memory.
 
Her sister died in the camp, but Corrie survived and vowed never to return to Germany.
 
However, years later, she returned for a speaking engagement, and gave a talk on what?  You guessed it - forgiveness.
 
To her dismay and horror, there was the same guard sitting in the audience. 
 
He could have never recognized Corrie as one of his emaciated, sick and shorn prisoners.  His radiant expression even suggested that he had since been converted.
 
After the talk, the smiling man extended his hand and said, "Ah, dear sister Corrie, isn't it wonderful how God forgives?"
 
Corrie only felt hated and anger toward this man who had wronged her family - and her.
 
Yet, at the same time, the Holy Spirit spoke to her and told her to stick out her hand.
 
She said, "It took all of the years that I had quietly obeyed God in obscurity to do the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
 
I put out my hand. 
 
It was only after my simple act of obedience that I felt something almost like warm oil being poured over me.  And with it came the unmistakable message:  "Well done, Corrie, that's how my children behave - and the hate and bitterness in my heart was absorbed and gone."
 
Two lessons:
 
If bitterness lingers in your heart, continue to repent of it daily and release to God's justice anyone who has offended you.
 
Forgiveness doesn't make the other person right - forgiveness sets you free.
 
Just a thought for a Wednesday.