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Thursday, April 03, 2014

Fleeces and faith

I want  you to know as one of the spiritual leaders of our church that I have been thrilled at the number of our church family who have taken up the 40 Day Prayer Challenge devotional book by Mark Batterson (Entitled, "Draw The Circle).

To be candid with you, I see the evidence of spiritual growth in many lives - there is a heighten awareness and hunger for God's presence.

For this I am grateful to God.
 
I encourage you to finish the 40 day challenge!
 
On day 22 of the 40 day prayer challenge, Mark brings up the idea of giving a prayer fleece before God.  What he shares is really "spot on".

As a pastor, I am often asked about the validity of a prayer fleece (brought up in Judges 6).

Generally speaking, we do not rely upon prayer fleeces to precede our steps of faith (and I am quoting here) but to follow our steps of faith.

Some have relied upon a notion such as, "If I come up to the stoplight and it is yellow, then I know that is it God's will for me to get married," or some such silliness as that.
 
Normally, God doesn't give us a "Damascus experience" whereby he reveals His will to us.  He almost always reveals His will to us step by step.

When I leave the church at night, I can't see the lights on at my house a few miles away.  I can only see what the lights of my car show me 300-400 feet ahead of me.

It is almost always like this as I seek God's direction and will for my life.
 
Step by step.
 
To be candid with you - asking God for a fleece is a sign of a weak faith and insecurity.  In other words, I need to see before I can believe (most of the time God asks us to believe before we see).

Mark Batterson writes, "But there are occasions when it's okay to ask God for confirmation because of our uncertainty."

Then he gives us some principles of caution:

1.  If God has already answered your question in Scripture, then you don't need to even ask it.  The first place to seek God's answer to prayer must always be God's Word.  I might add here that God has also given us the Holy Spirit (especially as Spirit-filled believers - by speaking to us personally).

2.  Check your motives to make sure they aren't selfish.

3.  Be willing to accept whatever answer you receive without second-guessing it.
 
I would also add that many times I have received a sign that I was "on the right track" and that "God was directing me in a way that was his will."  But it was almost always because of His grace and concern for me - not as a tool to increase my faith.  It was a tool to confirm that I was going in the right direction, giving me a sense of spiritual peace in my spirit.
 
For example, on three separate occasions, I have, in the midst of seeking God's direction for my life, and receiving His will, have observed a rainbow in the sky, a beautiful rainbow that seemingly came out of nowhere (one time in particular when we were in France). 
 
Was I asking for a "sign" from God that would show me the direction I was to go?  No.
 
Did God graciously show me a rainbow to confirm the direction I was going?  Absolutely.
 
Can God honor a fleece in the midst of our weak faith?  Yes he can.  He can do anything he wants to do.  But does he desire that we trust Him enough to walk hand in hand with him throughout our spiritual pilgrimage, knowing that He knows what is best for us?  Certainly so.

At the end of the day, even more important than receiving the answer to our prayer is receiving God himself and knowing that God is for us.  That God is for you and God is for me.

That's why, Mark ends Day 22 with this thought, "Don't seek answers; seek God.  And the answers will seek you."

Perhaps, just perhaps God is enough for today.

Just a thought for a Thursday.





Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Teaching moments with your children

I've always tried to go by the theory (when we were raising our kids) that the best way to teach your children is to watch and wait for those "teaching moments" that inevitably come up each day.
 
Spontaneous moments where you can share a practical and spiritual truth that is birthed out of the moment.
 
Now, don't get me wrong. 
 
As Debbie and I raised our children, we did have a season where our family had devotions.  Those ARE important. 
 
The best resource that I have found for family devotions is a book by John Maxwell entitled, "Your Family Time With God."
 
Here is the description on the back of the book:
 
"Are you looking for family devotions that are fun...short..and do-able?
 
If you want your family to grow in the faith, then Your Family Time With God is an invaluable tool.
 
This one-year devotional brings the whole family together for short, meaningful times of study, discussion, Bible memorization and prayer.  Each week's devotional is centered on one of fifty-two key foundational values to the Christian faith, such as forgiveness, patience, holiness, and attitudes."
 
Here's what I know about parenting:  Kids do what kids see.
 
I saw a commercial on T.V. recently that showed how kids are influenced (in a negative way) by their parents.  The mom was drinking - the teenager was drinking as well.  Dad was physical abusing the mom, their son was shown striking mom as well.
 
The challenge and the opportunity in raising our kids is that they are constantly watching us and emulating us in what we do or say.
 
That is a huge responsibility.
 
One of the greatest player to ever play the game of professional baseball was Cal Ripken.
 
One time he was searching for parenting tips.
 
He says the sagest advice he ever received about dadhood came not from the usual child development experts but a former Orioles teammate named Tim Hulett, whom Ripken regards as "the best dad I've ever known."
 
In one clubhouse conversation still etched in his memory, Ripken recalls Hulett observing, "Your little ones are a blank tape, constantly running and recording information. Whose information do you want on that tape? Yours or somebody else's?"
 
Cal Ripken replied, "I want my information on that tape."
 
I get that - and agree with that - as long as it is godly, sound, Holy Spirit anointed information.
 
Will their be times when you "blow it" it front of your children either through anger or unkind words?
 
Absolutely.  You are a Christian parent who is fallible.  Again, when that happens, that is a "teaching moment," - a moment to model repentance and forgiveness.
 
I have faith in you, mom and dad, that you are raising your child as "unto the Lord."
 
Keep at it!  Persevere!  God is with you!
 
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Waiting and trust

You have heard me say several times that I am not good at all at waiting.

It is true.

When the host or hostess at a restaurant says, "your table will be ready in 10 minutes," I about have a heart attack.

For most of you reading this - you are in a period of waiting.

There is something that you can't get by your own wit, by your own schemes, by your own finances, by your own endurance - you even tried your own charm.

And it is just not working to get that one thing that you long for - the thing that in actuality only God can give.

So you pray - and your bargain with God. 

"God I'll do anything.  I'll go to church.  I'll read books.  I'll read the Bible, I'll even listen to George's sermons (you must be really desperate)."

And nothing is working.

You even try manipulating God.

It doesn't work.

It is a season of waiting.

In the English language the word "wait" means stop, dead in the water, red light.

"I'm not going anywhere."

That's what it means in our language.

In the Hebrew language it means to "trust".

It has the connotation of putting your eyes on God and recognizing that during the time of waiting that He and He alone is the one who can answer your prayer.

It is recognizing that God is up to something good in your life.  God is teaching you and I something.  Just as important as receiving what you are waiting for - is the process of what God is taking you through.  He is building you up.  He is establishing godly character in your life. 

I guess what I am saying is this:  As a follower of Christ - there is always a purpose to our waiting times.

Easy to write - hard to put into practice.

Waiting can be hard (especially for those of us who don't like to wait).

But I encourage you today - during those times when nothing makes sense - and when what you are going through is not fair - when  you feel all alone in God's waiting room, to trust in God.

God simply says, "Trust me."

God says (and this is a word to your specifically) - God says, "Trust me, I have everything under control."

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

What a thrill it was to see three different generations of our church family baptized in water yesterday!

A youngster - Anthony Roebuck.

A 30 something man - Clif Novak

A 69 year old man - Arsenio Reyes.

Each of the testimonies were heartwarming and inspiring!

God is up to something good!

Congratulations to these three:  We rejoice with you at what God is doing in your lives!

It was my privilege to dedicate little Willem Insalaco as "unto the Lord" yesterday.

He is a beautiful baby boy.

One of the Insalaco boys was walking up to platform for the baby dedication (with the rest of the family) and after seeing all of the people being baptized in water, blurted out (on his way up the platform), "I don't want to take a bath".

I guess he thought we were going to dunk him as well.

Great stuff!

We love you Insalaco family!

Congratulations to our students who participated in Fine Arts this past Saturday.  We are proud of all of you!

Three of our youth group girls qualified to go to the National Fine Arts Festival in Columbus, Ohio:

Camryn Stuart for Flash Fiction (short story).

Bridget Cusack for Female Vocal Solo.

Marcella Herrera for Female Vocal Solo.

Applause and congratulations!

I appreciate all the prayers for me - and would ask that you keep on praying for my physical body.

We would encourage you to consider attending our leadership seminar this coming Friday evening at 7:00 P.M.  It is open to everyone - spouses included.

Dick Hardy is one of the foremost Assemblies of God church consultants that we have.

7:00 P.M.

We would also encourage you to "bring a friend" for one of our morning services on April 13th.  The vast majority of people accept Christ through a friend - especially a friend who invites them to "church."

Why not take a step of faith and not only invite a non-Christian friend but bring them as well?

You might be surprised at what the Holy Spirit can do.

Just an fyi:  Brian and Angela Bougher are coming to us this weekend.  Brian is our new worship pastor.  He officially starts in our church office this Friday - and will be working with Pastor Amanda through the month of April (Pastor Amanda's last Sunday is April 2th).

Brian comes to us with a wealth of experience (15 years) and is a godly, spiritual man of the faith.

Michigan State lost yesterday.  Really disappointing for us "Green and White Fans."

Baseball starts today!  Let's hope "real" spring weather is not far behind.

While the White Sox and Cubs will both be crummy this year - I still can't wait to get out and go to the ball park!

Love you all......

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Walking in the boldness of Christ

Are you scared of the demonic?

Do you fear even talking about the devil and his demons for fear that they might overcome you?

Would you be hesitant in dealing with someone who is demon-possessed or minimally oppressed by the enemy?
C. S. Lewis once wrote that we often fall prey to two equal yet opposite errors concerning the Devil.
Sometimes we take him far too seriously. Other times we do not take him seriously enough.
So, the Devil is happy if you are preoccupied with him all day long.
And he's just as happy when you hardly give him a thought at all.
I believe that most of us fall into the latter error—we don't take him seriously enough.
We need to be reminded that Satan is a living enemy, crafty in the way he seeks our destruction.
We wonder why there is so much violence on our streets and in our homes.
We wonder why there is so much greed.
We wonder why our sexuality is so backwards. It's Satan!
Satan is preoccupied with your relationship with Christ and your relationship in Christ's cause.
Before you became a Christian, his main interest was to blind you to the truth about Christ.
Satan sought to seduce you into his terrain. Once you become a Christian, he will do everything he can to render you ineffective for Christ and Christ's cause.
At the same time you can overcome him with the boldness and authority that is given you through Jesus Christ - and your standing in God. 
You do not need to fear the enemy!
You do not need to fear the enemy because you are a child of God!
I encourage you to realize who you are in Jesus!
You have been given a spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind!
Repeat after me: 
"In Jesus, I am an overcomer."
"In the name of Jesus, I bind and cast out all spirits that would attempt to keep me in a low place."
"Lord, You are the God of the valleys.  Cast out every valley spirit in the name of Jesus!"
"In the name of Jesus, I break and divide every demonic confederacy against my life."
"Greater is He in me, than He who lives in the world!"
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Confronting your fears

Scott Peck begins his book, "The Road Less Traveled," with these memorable words:
 
"Life is difficult.  This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.  It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.  Once we truly know that life is difficult - once we truly understand and accept it - then life is no longer difficult.  Because one it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters."
 
What's interesting about that quote is that as followers of Jesus, we know life is difficult.
 
Jesus tells us in John 16:33, "In this world you will have tribulation."
 
Paul agrees with that in Acts 14:22, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God."
 
And we know that at the end of the age, the church will go through the most intense persecution of it's history. 
 
In Matthew 24:21, Jesus spoke of a "Great Tribulation," which "has not been seen form the beginning of the world until now, and never will be."
 
Throughout Scriptures it is made clear that the life of a believer is anything but easy.
 
I can't, in one blog, give all the different godly responses to difficulties that come our way.
 
I know that you, perhaps, as well as myself, are facing trials of immense proportions.
 
In that context, let's remember Proverbs 28:1.   I encourage you to memorize this verse today.
 
"The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion."
 
What that verse means is this:  You and I will be gripped with fear until we decide to confront it.
 
Fear will win everyday until you stand up, look that fear straight in the face, and say, "you are not going to win over me anymore.  By the help of God and with the power of the Holy Spirit, I am going to win against you."
 
Listen to me, you and I will never win until we rise up and confront the thing that is dragging us down.
 
Courage is nothing more than seeing the fear and taking action against it.
 
How many of you know the 95% Rule of Worry?  It goes like this:  95% of the things we worry about won't happen.
 
In other words to worry about something you can't change is useless. 
 
It is like sitting in a rocking chair - it gives you something to do but it doesn't take you anywhere.
 
Most of the time we worry about things that are never going to happen, and even if it does, we can deal with it when it does happen - with God's help.
 
Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7, "For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."
 
God has given us a sound mind so that we can look at our problems.  He's given us power so we can overcome, and he's given us love so we can respond in his character.
 
Why not join me in walking with the "boldness of a lion today" - and confront your fears with God's help?

That's what courage is:  Facing and dealing with the impossible situations of life and still believing in God, still rejoicing in his goodness.
 
Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend
 
Applause for all of our Royal Ranger leaders! 
 
Our annual Pinewood Derby was a success in the sense that it was well attended - and a great time by all!
 
I am thankful for the way the teaching yesterday ministered to many.
 
As you might know, I am a "grace guy".  I love to preach and minister on God's grace and love.
 
However, God is also a God of holiness - and He takes sin seriously.
 
Here's what I know:  When we take sin seriously, we can then take his grace seriously.   What Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls a costly grace.
 
Our forgiveness cost God the life of His Son.  Why?  To redeem us from our sins.  We honor God by taking the very thing that lead to the cross seriously - taking upon Himself your sin and my sin - so that we might have eternal life.
 
I understand that we had over 50 kids in our Kid's Hub (children's church yesterday)!
 
Praise God!
 
I really felt God's presence yesterday as we "sang in the spirit" around the altar after the second service.  It is one of my favorite expressions of praise to God.
 
Good to see new faces yesterday!
 
As I am writing this - I just looked out my office window and saw the first Robin I have seen this spring.  Maybe spring is going to come!  :) :)
 
You can't help but catch the spirit of "March Madness".
 
Great games yesterday.
 
I'm looking at Michigan State and Florida in the final game (my prediction of the score to come later).
 
Here's a story I didn't get to share yesterday (but had planned to).
 
It shows the power of confession:
 
One author writes:
 
"Many years ago I was invited to see a man who was paralyzed from the waist down and had not bee in church for about 9 months.  I began to talk with him and he was a very bitter man, just filled with resentment.
 
A cow had kicked him in the back and paralyzed him.  He was bitter against members who hadn't visited him, bitter against the insurance company for not paying off, bitter against the doctor for not figuring gout how to make him walk, bitter against the cow, bitter against God.  He was very resentful.
 
I said (the author writes), "God may want to heal you and restore you to full health, but He will not heal you until first you get rid of that resentment in your life."
 
I remember him bowing his head and begin to weep, almost uncontrollably, deep sobs, "God, I have been so bitter.  Just flush all the anger and hate form me."  He wept for about 10 minutes.  I prayed with him and I left.  The next day the man came to church, in a wheelchair, the firs time he'd been in church in 9 months.  At the end of the service I gave a "come forward" invitation to people who wanted to come and pray.  The man got up out of his wheelchair and walked down to the front and recommitted his life to the Lord."
 
That is the power of confession.
 
Love you all......

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Character is who you are in the dark

Character is who you are in the dark.
 
I love that quote.
 
Character is not so much what you do as much as who you are.
 
"Image" is what people think you are.  Character is what you really are.
 
I always say, "I can teach  - how to do something - I can't teach character."
 
Isn't it amazing that when we sin - we like to sin in private?
 
And we think that God doesn't see us?
 
Dallas Willard writes about a 2-and-a-half-year-old girl in her backward who one day discovered the secret to making mud (which she called "warm chocolate"). 
 
Her grandmother had been reading and was facing away from the action, but after cleaning up what was to her a mess, she told her little Larissa not to make any  more chocolate and turned her chair around so as to be facing her granddaughter.
 
The little girl soon resumed her "warm chocolate" routine, with one request posed as sweetly as a 2-and-a-half-year-old can make it:  don't look at me, Nana.  Okay?"  Nana (being a little co-dependent) of course agreed.
 
Larissa continued to manufacture warm chocolate.  Three times she said, as she continued her work, "Don't look at me, Nana.  Okay?"
 
Dallas Willard then writes, "Thus the tender soul of a little child shows us how necessary it is to us that we be unobserved in our wrong."
 
I would suggest to you that anytime we do wrong or withhold ourselves from doing right, we choose hiddenness at the same time.
 
We think God doesn't observe what we are doing/saying/thinking/feeling.
 
And maybe, just maybe, it may be that out of all the prayers that are ever spoken, the most common one, the quietest one; the one that we are hesitant to share with others that we pray - is simply this:  "Don't look at me God."
 
Today, as you walk about your daily activities, ask yourself - Would God be pleased with what I am saying or doing?  Is my life an "open book" before the Lord?
 
Does my life put a "smile on God's face?"
 
Just a thought for a Thursday.
 
 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The power of invitation

Please read this blog!  It is detrimental to the health of the devil and his demons!

At Stone Church, we say all the time, "invite someone to one of our Sunday morning services (or small groups)."
There are two specific Sunday morning events that we encourage you to invite a non-churched person to during the month of April.
April 13th - Friend Day.  We would ask you to invite a non-Christian friend to church that morning for one of our Worship Services.  There will be a special emphasis on welcoming new people as well as an altar call for salvation that morning.
April 20th - Easter.  If you and I can't get excited about Easter than our "wood is wet!"  We need the spark of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Easter is a great time to invite a friend to church.
Why is inviting someone to church so important? 
You and I both know that statistics can be boring, but listen to these.
When asked, "what brought you to this church?"
2% responded - advertisement
6% responded - an invitation by the pastor
6% responded - an organized evangelistic outreach program
86% responded - an invitation by a friend or family member.
Dr. Thom Rainer writes, "82% of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited, but only 2% of church members invite an unchurched person to church.  98% of church-goers never extend an invitation in a given year."
That is very, very challenging to all of us.
Why don't we invite people to come to church?
You desire people to come to know God.
You know that people are lost without God and are choosing eternity in hell if they don't connect to Jesus.
You want your neighbors and your friends to come to God.
People want to be invited to church, and they will come if you do, and yet, you are not doing it.
Then why don't you invite them?
The number one reason is fear.
Survivor Eva Hart remembers the night, April 15, 1912, on which the Titanic plunged 12,000 feet to the Atlantic floor, some two hours and forty minutes after an iceberg tore a 300-foot gash in the starboard side:
"I saw all the horror of its sinking, and I heard, even more dreadful, the cries of drowning people."
Although twenty life-boats and rafts were launched-too few and only partly filled-most of the passengers ended up struggling in the icy seas while those in the boats waited a safe distance away.
Lifeboat No. 14 did row back to the scene after the unsinkable ship slipped from sight at 2:20 A.m. Alone, it chased cries in the darkness, seeking and saving a precious few. Incredibly, no other boat joined it.
Some were already overloaded, but in virtually every other boat, those already saved rowed their half-filled boats aimlessly in the night, listening to the cries of the lost. Each feared a crush of unknown swimmers would cling to their craft, eventually swamping it.
"I came to seek and to save the lost," our Savior said. And he commissioned us to do the same.
But we face a large obstacle: fear. While people drown in the treacherous waters around us, we are tempted to stay dry and make certain no one rocks the boat.
We might have someone who could be totally up for it right in front of us, practically beckoning us to invite them, and instead we hesitate and hem and haw and sometimes don't even get the words out of our mouths.
We are afraid of what they will think of us for going, fearful of what they might think of our church, fearful of what they will think of us if they come and don't like it. 
And - if we were candid with each other - some of those fears might come to pass - but it is still a fear of man, and that is not a valid reason for you and I to deny an opportunity to fulfill the mission God has called us to.
8 tips to get around the fear that prohibits you from inviting someone:
Number one:  Ask God for His heart for the lost.
This coming Easter, we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus - and remember the death of Christ on the cross.  This shows us God's heart for the lost in his selfless sacrifice for you and I.
If your heart has become so hardened that you no longer care that your neighbor is estranged from Christ, ask for forgiveness.  Pray that God would give you a powerful love for those who do not know him.  Trust that he will give you that love through the Holy Spirit.  Put your words into action.
Many times we can begin to feel that our ministry participation in church relieves us from the responsibility that we all have as believers to bring them to Christ.  Everyone is called to invite.
Number two:  Pray for the boldness and courage of the Holy Spirit.
That fear that you are experiencing (the fear of inviting someone to church) is the work of the enemy.  Pray for deliverance from fear, pray for courage, and pray for boldness.  The Holy Spirit will meet your there.
Number three:  Pray for specific people. 
Pray that God would put five people on your heart to invite.  When he does, trust that he will give you the courage you just prayed for to be faithful in reaching out to people He put on  your heart.
Number four:  Remember your own calling.
Instead of focusing on your fear - focus on your faith and the grace of God in your life.  The more you focus on what God has done for you -  you will want to share that with others.  Listen to the stories of how God saved other Christians in your church and pray that God would give you the gift of watching those stories unfold in the lives of the five people you invite.
Number five:  Remember the gospel.
What is the primary way that people connect to Christ?  A verbal proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  People need to hear the gospel explained to believe.  How can they believe is they do not hear?  The goal of inviting someone to church is incredibly simple:  through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, God will open blind eyes and a dead heart to believe.
Number six:  Trust in God's power to save.
I have seen God change people that I thought (in the natural) were unchangeable.  I have seen people changed by God in their darkest moments.  Please note:  If your non-Christian friend seems to have little interest in Christ that is not a sign that they never will.
Number seven:  Know that sharing the hope of eternity is the most loving thing you can do.
Inviting non-Christians to hear the gospel can challenge some of the lies they have built a false hope on.  It may feel wrong or awkward to challenge some of their beliefs, but it is the most loving thing you can do. Loving someone means caring about their eternal future, not just that one moment of awkwardness.
Number eight:  Know that it is not about you.
Nothing about God saving  your non-Christian friend depends on you.  Salvation is of the Lord, not the result of your clever arguments.  If you know that the Holy Spirit is the one who does all the work of awakening a dead heart, it takes the pressure off your abilities to get the words or the timing just right.  Our role is simply to be faithful.
As I write, I am reminded of Jesus' interaction with the woman at the well in John 4.  It didn't take long for the woman to realize that the man she was talking to was no ordinary Jewish teacher.  His prophetic insights and authoritative answers convinced her of His claim to be the Messiah.
So what did she do?  She immediately went to her town and brought a bunch of people to the well to hear Jesus for themselves.  This simple invitation resulted in His staying in their town for two days.  Many of the woman's friends declared in John 4:42, "Now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world."
That is the power of an invitation.  She didn't lecture on 12 reasons to believe that Jesus is the Christ.
She just said, "Come and see."
There are tons of ways to invite people to church.  Depending on your style, your personality, your age, your connections, your community, the possibilities are endless.  So, to get the ball rolling, I'm not too concerned about how you invite, I desire that you being inviting.
Will you join me in this God given mission?

 

 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Having a great argument with your spouse

I have a very good friend who to this day, denies that he has ever had a verbal argument with his wife.

And he is serious.

I want to share with him, "Liar, liar, pants on fire."

All couples are going to have tiffs, spats, disagreements, and verbal fights in their life.

It goes with being married.

But listen to me:  that does not mean that your marriage is unhealthy.

Health in your marriage is not measured by the lack of problems, but by the way you handle them.

Ephesians 4 gives  us a few guidelines on how to have a great fight (I read these years ago):

1.  Be committed to honesty and mutual respect.

Paul writes in Ephesians 4:25, "therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor (spouse), for we are members of one another."

In other words, make a decision in advance that you will treat your spouse with honesty and mutual respect.  Make a commitment to tell one another the truth - in love.  Don't wait until you are in the heat of an argument to decide that you will respect your mate.  Say to yourself this day, "I will treat my spouse with respect and honesty."

2.  Make sure your weapons are not deadly.

Paul writes in verse 26, "Be angry, and yet do not sin."

You will get angry in your relationship with your spouse.  But do not let your anger lead you into sin.

Bursts of exasperated temper.  Rage.  Lack of control.  A desire to hurt your spouse or the use of profanity. 

How do I know if my anger is out of control?

I attack my spouse (verbally) personally instead of the issue.

I reject instead of reprove.  I condemn.

I use gross exaggerations like "always" and "never" to prove a point.

3.  Agree together that the time is right.

Is it the right time to resolve an issue?

Paul writes in verses 26 and 27, "Do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity."

Use your time wisely.  Make sure you both are in agreement that it is the right time to talk.  Don't jump in to something the moment either of you drags home from work or when there is a stack of dishes and three children that need to be put to bed.

Choose your timing carefully.

Let your spouse tell you, "this isn't the best time," or "This is not the right place; let's deal with it a little bit later in a more appropriate setting."

But having said that - don't keep putting it off.  Don't let the day end without having dealt with the issue.

4.  Have a positive solution in hand after taking a swing (verbally).

Paul inserts a thought on stealing in verse 28, but we can apply it to marriage as well.

He writes, "let him who steals steal no longer."  And then he gives a positive solution, "But rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that the may have something to share with him who has need."

Come to the table with a positive solution.  Don't just seek to get your point across, but prayerfully come with a resolution to the problem.

5.  Watch your words and guard your tone.

Paul writes in verse 29,30, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as I good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."

Isn't it true that when we have a point that we want to make - we speak louder?  As if that is going to get the point across without any debate.

And the louder our tone, the uglier our words usually get, and the less your spouse can really listen.

The louder you get - the more they will tune you out.  Speak softly with respect.

6.  Don't fight in public.

"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice," Paul writes in verse 31.

Share your anger and hurt with a counselor if you will, but never in public for all to see.

7.  When it is over - help clean up the mess.

Paul writes in verse 32, "be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."

Be kind.  Compassionate.  Forgiving.  Admit when you are wrong.  And let the Holy Spirit bring not only resolution but reconciliation to your marriage.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Whenever I hear a spiritual truth once - I listen and apply it to my life.

Whenever I hear a spiritual truth twice - I know for certain that God is trying to speak to me.

Debbie shared this truth with me from Mark Batterson's book, "Draw the Circle", which we are going through as a church for forty days.

Then, last evening, our guest speaker, Mikel French gave us the same through.

Here it is (my paraphrase):  More than speaking to God about our situation, we are to speak to our situation about God.

I like that.

I can and must tell God about my trials, problems and challenges.  God likes it when I do that.  He wants me to "lay my burdens down" at his feet.

But as a spirit filled believer, walking in the authority of Christ, I can also speak to my situation about God.

I can say things like:

"Sickness, God is greater than you.  Be gone in the name of Jesus.  Jesus is my healer.  You shall have no authority over my body."

"Finances, God has everything under control.  You will not cause me to walk in fear because God gives me strength and courage during difficult times.  I will not bow down, finances, to the spirit of worry that you are bringing into my life.  Greater is he in me than he who lives in the world."

"Job search, there is a job out there for me.  You have kept me in bondage for too long.  I will not bow down to the thoughts of the enemy that I will never find a job.  God already has the job for me.  that anxiety I feel over not finding a job is gone - in the name of Jesus!"

Well, you get the idea.

I encourage you to do that today.  Speak to your situation about God.  Tell the situation that your God is far greater than that trial or adversity.

And then, let God "do His thing"!

Powerful stuff.

Over 25 people raised their hands for salvation Sunday morning!

Praise God!

What a deeply anointed service we had last evening - the sweet, powerful presence of God. 

People "slain in the spirit".

People worshipping God.

People being Pentecostal.

I love it.

It was like stepping into a warm house on a cold day.

It was like feeling the warmth of the fire from the fireplace as you sit in your easy chair.

Gentle.  Anointed.  Powerful.

Tonight:  7:00 P.M. 

Thankful for the ministry of Mikel French and James Huey.

The Word and Worship.  A solid "one-two" punch in the devil's face!

I really like being in the presence of God!

God is truly moving in our church - won't you come and join us?

Love you all......

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Living your wounds

One of the things I know as a pastor is this:

We have all been wounded.
 
We are the "walking wounded" if you will (some call this Jacob's limp - we all, to a certain extent walk with a limp).
 
And here's what I also know:  the more you open yourself to being healed, the more you will discover just how deep your wounds really are.
 
As you reach for healing, you begin to discover the layers of hurt that are there as well as uncovering other wounds as well.
 
That can be discouraging.
 
It can lead to tears and times of despair.
 
But I want to encourage you today. 
 
Do not be afraid.  Do not walk in fear.
 
The simple fact that you are more aware of your wounds shows that you have sufficient strength to face them.
 
Awareness if the key.  Blasting away denial, you realize with a Holy Spirit realization that the wounds are real - they are there and no amount of ignoring them with bring healing.
 
Can I give you a challenge today?
 
Live your wounds instead of thinking them through.
 
I would suggest to you (I quote Henri Nouwen here), "that it is better to cry than to worry, better to feel  your wounds deeply than to understand them, better to let them enter into your silence than to talk about them."
 
Are you taking your wounds to your head or to your heart?
 
When we quarantine our wounds to our head (our thought processes) we can analyze them, try to figure out their cause and effect and speak in Christian clich├ęs.
 
Yet, no ultimate healing will come from these sources.
 
We need to let our wounds go down into our heart - and in so doing you live through them and discover that your wounds will not overwhelm you or destroy you.
 
Your heart (with the Holy Spirit in you) is greater than your wounds.
 
This process, however, is not easy.  We want to know the "why", the "when", the "how" and the "by whom," don't we.
 
Yet as you trust in God - God will help you understand that all of those questions are valid - but the most important thing is embracing your wound in your heart - and letting God walk you though to victory.
 
Isaiah 43:1,2,3 tells us, "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire,  you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  For I am the Lord, your God."
 
Victory is yours today!
 
Just a thought for a Thursday.
 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Grudges and life

I like to say that I am getting to the age where I am forgetting the names of those whom I have held grudges against.
 
What is a grudge? 
 
A grudge is when a person is persistently mad at someone else.
 
They can't let go of a wrong or a hurt, whether is be real or unreal, intentional or unintentional.
 
By the very nature of our human DNA, we as followers of Christ can lower ourselves into carrying around a grudge like a heavy ball and chain.
 
In his best-selling book, "The Telling Room", Michael Paterniti shares a true story he heard when visiting his father's ancestral village in Sicily.
 
Every day while he was in the village he saw a very old woman walking with her cane, struggling up a steep road to get to the local cemetery. It was said that at her tortoise pace, the walk from her home to the cemetery and back took about six hours out of her day.
 
What grief inspired her difficult daily walk?
 
Was she driven by sorrow over a departed child or a deceased husband, the love of her life?
 
No, the locals told Paterniti that she was driven by Astio, or bitter hatred.
 
Her archenemy was buried in that cemetery. So, rain or shine, the old woman walked up the hill every day to her enemy's gravesite, just to spit on it one more time.
 
My suggestion to you today is to simply, "let it go."  Make a choice to release the resentment and anger.  Let's the Holy Spirit permeate not only your spirit but your soul.
 
And remember:  life is short - do you really want to fill your time up with a grudge?
 
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Parenting is a calling from God

Parenting is an exercise in discipleship that brings us our greatest joys - and - many times, our most difficult sorrows.
 
What I see today in God's kingdom are parents who are taking their role as mom and dad seriously.  I see parents who not only desire to raise their kids as "unto the Lord", but want to be the women and men of God that God has called them to be.
 
Here's what I know:  We are to give godly counsel to our children.
 
David writes in Psalms 1:1, "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly."
 
God calls us as godly parents to give godly advice to our children.
 
I encourage you as a Christian parent to raise your children according to God's Word and godly counsel from Christian books, magazines and T.V. talk shows.
 
That is so important, for the values of our secular, carnal culture are promoting the idea that it is socially unacceptable to reprimand, repress, restrain or discipline our children.
 
Society calls it a violation of your child's freedom and self-expression.
 
Discipling your child means that  you go far beyond simply exercising authority over them.
 
There must be equal amounts of love, service, patience, understanding and instruction.
 
Please listen to me:  You can be a tremendous force for good, both to you own children and to other children under your influence.
 
You can be a part of the process of leading them to their life purpose.
 
Sometimes it is easy to think if not say out loud, "I don't feel up to parenting; I feel so inadequate to raise my children; I'm not much more than a big kid myself."
 
Yet remember this:  Your effectiveness as a parent goes far beyond your own sense of being prepared, or experienced or your present energy level as mom and dad.
 
It is a measured call of God on your life.  God has called you to be a parent.
 
That is so important to understand when you are tempted to NOT confront ungodly attitudes and behaviors in your children.
 
And you might feel a little bit sheepish is attempting to teach and lead your children in such a way that they honor you as their parents (as the Bible says to do).
 
But Jesus as designated you as an influencer and shaper of your children's for God's glory - not your own. 
 
God's Word has laid out the results that your influence can have - for better or for worse.
 
Here are some action steps to fulfilling the call of God on your life as a parent:
 
Know that you are called by God to be your children's mom or dad.
 
Be a godly role model.
 
Focus on affirming your children and building a platform of trust by showing them how much you love them.
 
When the spontaneous  moment for spiritual input and guidance comes - "seize the day" no matter what is going on around you.
 
Finally, I would suggest that you pray this prayer today:
 
"Father God, help me to shape the children under my influence by loving them according to Your commandments and teaching them Your ways.  I desire to be a faithful shepherd who wisely uses the rod of Your leading and correction.  Teach me never to neglect or ignore any child that You bring into my life.  Confront in me any harmful attitudes that linger from my own childhood.  Fill me daily with Your Holy Spirit, and keep the fountain of my soul overflowing with Your wisdom, goodness and affirmation toward children so that they may become the godly nurturers and leaders of tomorrow.  In Jesus' name.  Amen."