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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Life without complaint

Did you know that you can live in bondage to a negative spirit?
 
It's true - and don't be negative about what I am about to write.  :)
 
God desires that we walk a life free from complaining and grumbling.  

Someone once wrote: “"The person with the discontented heart has the attitude that everything he does for God is too much, and everything God does for him is too little."
 
It’s very difficult to be around whining, complaining, negative people.  Yet at times we all find ourselves in that position.  Continually throughout their sojourn through the desert, the children of Israel found themselves directing their discontent at Moses and ultimately God. 
 
They complained about the miracle nourishment that was sent by God. They whined about the report of the men sent into Canaan to spy out the land.  They spoke of stoning Moses and Aaron.  
 
The Psalmist says it directly in Psalms 52:9, “Your tongue plots destruction, like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit.” 
 
Our words can bring life or our words can bring death. And more importantly, our words are an outgrowth of our inner spirit.  They express the bondage that many experience from constantly looking at the negative side of life experiences.
 
Journalist James Glassman declares that "a culture of complaint" has infected American society. Some Americans file complaints against food companies, seeking to hold a corporation responsible for making them fat.

Others seek litigation against banks for lending them money even though they were a credit risk. There are complaints about overcrowding in schools, low paying jobs, and cheap foreign labor. The truth is that some of these complaints are unfounded or else ignore offsetting blessings.
 
According to Glassman, there are many reasons not to complain:
 
In 1955 the ratio of students to teachers was 30 to 1. Today it is 19 to 1.
 
Adjusted for inflation, compensation has tripled since 1947, and the cost of necessities has   plummeted.
 
Food in 1950 represented about one third of a family's total expenditures; today, it's one seventh.
 
The U.S. Gross Domestic Product is more than the total of the next five countries.
 
The current U.S. unemployment rate of 5.7% is lower than the average rate over the last 30 years and lower than most countries, including industrialized countries.
 
Americans work fewer hours, and have more cars, cultural institutions, and children in college than ever before.
 
Remember when Jesus served his disciples communion the night he was taken away?  Knowing that His hour had come, he took the bread and the cup and he gave thanks.  He gave thanks.  Even in the midst of difficult circumstances we can choose to give thanks.  It comes down to a choice.   
 
Will I choose to speak words of gratefulness and gratitude?  Or will I choose to speak words of complaint and dissatisfaction?  Let’s not forget that the joy of the Lord is our strength.  Let’s remember that we are to rejoice “in” all things.  Not “for” all things but “in” all things.   
 
God is in control.   
 
Prayer:  "Father, help me to live a grateful life, free from the bondage of a complaining spirit."
 
Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Are you picky about what you pray about?

At our prayer meeting last evening, we had a wonderful time of intercession and supplication before God.
 
It is one of the highlights of my week:  gathering together with other followers of Christ - and having conversations with God.
 
Prayer, as you know, is a conversation with God (and I am thankful I can speak with God about anything - God will never get offended by anything I say).
 
Here's what I know:  A true intercessor is not "picky" about what they pray about.
 
They will pray about everything.

Paul writes in Philippians 4:6, "Don't worry about anything but pray about everything."

The question is:  What is "everything" mean to you?
 
A read of a poll today (conducted by LifeWay Research) that found that many of us are very picky about who we will pray for.
 
For instance, the poll revealed that we typically  pray for:
 
Family and Friends 82 percent of the time.
 
Our own problems and difficulties 74 percent of the time.
 
Our enemies 37 percent of the time.
 
Government leaders 12 percent of the time.
 
And.....interestingly enough, 36 percent of survey participants said they typically pray for financial prosperity, 21 percent pray to win the lottery, and 13 percent typically pray for their favorite sports team to win.
 
Now then, obviously, we are to pray about those people that are dear to us.
 
(In fact, one rule of prayer that I have - as I enter into a time of intercession - is to pray about what is on my mind or heart, first - and then pray for "world peace.")
 
But as we go along the pathway of our Christian faith - and grow in God - our prayers become less "picky" and more along the lines of the needs of others and the world we live in.
 
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Creating a team

Here's what I know:  When you are walking through a crisis, you need a team around you to support you.
 
You need "Team ________" (and fill in the blank with your name).
 
When I am walking through a difficult time - I need "Team George" to come together and pray with me, give me godly counsel and help soothe my troubled soul.
 
Some of my favorite verses are found in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:  If one falls down, his friend can help him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm along?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
 
Notice that last phrase:  "A cord of three strands."
 
Who comprises your "cord of three strands"?  Who are the people in  your life who are there for you, pulling for you, not afraid to tell you the truth?
 
Which friends, in your life, are available to comfort you when you are down, show you more about God than you already know, and pull you back when you are headed for trouble?
 
Who is there to celebrate with you in the good times and cry with  you in the bad times?
 
Who is on your team?
 
One disclaimer:  Be careful as to whom you bring on  your support team.
 
Bring on those who are growing personally and not those who are stagnant in the faith.  Don't entrust your heart to those who are negative, always complaining or critical.
 
They will kill your dreams and turn you away from God's path for you life.
 
If you are looking for some team members to support you - why not look into a life group today?
 
Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I had a great meeting with our two head ushers:  Tom Kirchner and Jon Gerstenkorn. 

Did you know that most people (according to studies) decided whether they are going to come back to any given church in the first 8 minutes of their visit?

That is how important our "First Impressions" ministry is. 

I encourage you to ponder and pray about joining our "First Impressions" ministry.  Be an usher.  Be a greeter.  Be an "informational booth" team member.

These volunteers are crucial to the church growth of our church!

Many, many thanks to everyone for the love offering that was given to our pastors yesterday for "Pastor Appreciation" Month.

It is a privilege to serve you.

We love you.

We appreciate you.

While I am thinking about it:  Many thanks to all of our volunteers who help make Sunday mornings "go."  You are appreciated.

You are important to the ministry that takes place.  As I said yesterday - you are a minister.

What I didn't get to yesterday:

Elton Trueblood has written:  "If the average church attendee should suddenly take seriously the notion that every lay person, member, man or woman is really a minister of Christ - we could have something like a revolution in a very short time."

And then this story:

33 year old Larry Walters recently decided to see his neighborhood from a new perspective.  He went to the Army Surplus store one morning and bought 45 used weather balloons.

That afternoon he strapped himself into a lawn chair to which several of his friends tied these helium-filled balloons together.

He took along a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a BB gun, figuring he could shoot the balloons one at a time when he was ready to land.

Walters, who assumed the balloons would lift him about 100 feet into the air, was caught off guard when the chair soared more than 11,000 feet into the sky - smack into the middle of the traffic pattern at Los Angeles International Airport. 

Too frightened to shoot any of the balloons, he stayed airborne for more than 2 hours, forcing the airport to shut down its runways for much of the afternoon.

Soon after he was safely grounded and cited by the police, reporters asked him, "Why did you do it?"

He replied, "Because, you just can't sit there."

That is a great challenge for everyone in our church:  You just can't sit there.
 
Love you all......

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Have it your way

"Have it your way", if I remember right, used to be a slogan that McDonalds used.
 
And now - restaurant chains are taking it to new levels.  There is an increasing amount of "tell-them-what -you-want" food chains.
 
Similar to Chipotle (the burrito joint where you can build your own custom Mexican inspired meal), new franchises bring the ultimate in custom food to Korean, 5 minute cook time pizza, tacos, Indian and Mediterranean restaurant (according to a recent Washing Post article).
 
That's great for you and I.  I am FOR that.  I really like to choose what I want to be in my burrito or on my pizza).
 
Here's the question:  should we let that kind of cultural shift into the church?
 
Should church be done, "your way?"  Or perhaps a more challenging question would be, "do you have to have "church" done "your way?" - or you will take the proverbial highway?
 
In a culture where nearly everything now is convenient and exactly how YOU want it, what happens to the spiritual climate of the church (specifically concerning our growth in Christ), when we think that everything must be done our way?
 
I would suggest that following Christ is not a matter of seeking for convenience - but of following Him.  Of being willing to be transformed.  Of placing ourselves in a position of sacrifice and commitment - no matter is things are going my way or not.
 
Just a thought for a Thursday.
 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fear and the world

There is a lot to fear in the world today.
 
Ebola.  ISIS.  War.  Tornadoes.  Financial collapse.  Earthquakes.  Crime.  Murders in Chicago.
 
In the midst of this, let's all remember that God is in control - and - we can live with courage (given to us by the Holy Spirit) on a daily basis.
 
Bill Hybels analyzes what he calls "destructive fear," the kind of fear that tricks us into believing, beyond what is reasonable, that the world is an ominous and dangerous place.
 
Hybels writes:
 
"History is filled with men and women who said no to destructive fear and changed the world. But imagine if they had given in to the paralyzing effects of fear on their lives. Imagine the apostle Paul, fearing resistance or rejection, choosing to stay home rather than embarking on the missionary journeys that took the message of Christ throughout the known world.
 
Imagine Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. giving speeches filled with gentle hints about the evils of segregation, because he feared pushing too hard. Instead, King championed the civil rights movement against racial segregation in the United States.
 
Imagine Rosa Parks, during that same era in American history submitting to the bus driver's command to give up her seat to a white person.
 
Imagine Nelson Mandela looking the other way when he witnessed and experienced apartheid in South Africa, because he didn't want to make a fuss. Instead, he spent twenty-seven years imprisoned and brought apartheid onto the world's radar, helping end the centuries-old regime of oppression.
 
Imagine Malala Yousafzai passively quitting school, because she was too frightened by the death threats she received from Taliban extremists, who abhor education for girls. Instead, she became even more vocal about the educational rights of children and women, survived a 2012 assassination attempt, and was a Nobel Peace Prize nominee in 2013 and 2014.
 
Imagine yourself, fully aware of the mission and vision God has placed in your heart to advance his kingdom in this world, yet held hostage to phobias, irrational worries, and destructive fears of failure, harm, or rejection. If you don't fulfill the mission God assigned to you, who will?"
 
My encouragement to you today is to live with the courage that God gives you, for God has not given you a spirit of fear, but a spirit of love, courage and a sound mind."  2 Timothy 1:8.
 
When the enemy and fear comes knocking at the door, ask Jesus to answer it.  And dwell in his peace that passes all understanding.
 
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Our riches in Christ

Tim Keller gives us this story:
 
"Imagine you're a billionaire, and you have three ten-dollar bills in your wallet.  You get out of a cab, and you hand the driver one of the bills for an eight-dollar fare.  Later in the day you look in and find out there's only one ten-dollar bill there, and you say, "Either I dropped a ten-dollar bill somewhere, or I gave the taxi driver two bills."
 
He asks, "what are you going to do?"
 
I ask you the same question - what would you do?
 
Get upset?
 
Call the police and demand they search the city for the cabdriver to get your money back?
 
No,  you are going to give a shrug and go on with  your life.   Why is that?  Because you are a billionaire and too rich to be concerned about "just" 10 dollars.
 
Now then, apply that to you life.
 
Somebody criticizes you.
 
You bought something or invested in something that is cheaper or less expensive or valuable than you thought.
 
Something didn't go the way you wanted it to go.
 
What are you going to do?
 
Let is ruin your day, week, month, year?  Nuke your contentment in life?
 
Shake your fist at God and blame him?  "God it is your fault I lost the ten dollars!"
 
Lay awake at night thinking about the ten-dollars (criticism, that situation that didn't go the way you thought it should go)?
 
If you and I do that (and we all do at some point in time) - we don't realize how truly rich we are in God.
 
I would suggest that if you are upset about your status with other people, if you are constantly lashing out at people for hurting your feelings, if you have a lack of self-control or a lack of self-esteem, you have lost the reality of your identity in Christ.
 
My word to you today?  You are a spiritual billionaire and you're wringing your hands over "ten-dollars?"  Remember who you are in Christ.  A child of God.  A saint.  A Christian.  Someone that God sent His only Son to die for.  Heaven will be your home.
 
Just a thought for a Tuesday.
 


Monday, October 13, 2014

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

If you were permit me a moment of talking sports:  I really can't believe that the Dallas Cowboys are playing as well as they are - beating the world champion Seattle Seahawks yesterday.

I had them at three wins and thirteen losses for the year.  They are now five and one.  Shows you how  much I know about football.

I can only attribute it to two things that can apply in every area of our lives:  Leadership and heart.

It helps to have the right leaders - and it helps to play (live life) from the heart.

With passion.

With courage.

With fortitude.

Anyway, the proverbial "true" fan in me is just waiting for the "other shoe to drop" and see the Cowboys fall apart - but we will see.

Great services yesterday!

Many, many new families attending - we are going to give energy this week in our pastoral staff meeting to the word, "assimilation."  Assimilating people into our church family.

One note (while I am thinking about it):  When you see someone new (or newer) in our church, we encourage you to stop and "get to know them" a little bit.

I remain thankful for all of the volunteers who minister in all of the ministries of our church.  You are important.  We are grateful for you!

Reminder:  Tuesday evening prayer meeting, 6:30 P.M.  One hour.  I would encourage you to come and pray for your family, our church, our state, our nation and our world.

I know you agree with me that our world needs prayer.

We are living in the end times.

I had a wonderful missions trip to England - having the privilege to speak in a new church plant in Bristol (the ministry home of John and Charles Wesley.

As you can see below, centuries old churches are being turned into bar, restaurants and even car washes (picture taken in Oxford, England - former home of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien).  England needs God!  America needs God!

May God help us to come back to God!




Looking forward to a great week in God!

Love you all........






Thursday, October 09, 2014

Your self worth

In what or to what are you finding your self worth?
 
In our attempt to find our self worth - we many times look to other things (even good things) and make them the ultimate things in our lives.
 
As Tim Keller writes, "it is seeking to establish a sense of self by making something else more central to your significance, purpose, and happiness than  your relationship with God."
 
He uses the illustration of the movie Rocky, where the title character's girlfriend asks him why it is so important for him to "go the distance" in the boxing match. 
 
He replies, "Than I'll know I am not a bum."
 
In the movie "Chariots of Fire," one of the main characters explains why he works so hard at running the hundred-yard dash for the Olympics.  He says that when each race begins, "I have ten lonely seconds to justify my existence."
 
Both of these men (as Tim Keller writes) looked to athletic achievement as the defining force that gave meaning to their lives.
 
Author Ernest Becker notes that a child's need for self-worth "is THE condition of his life," so much so that every person is desperately seeking what he calls "cosmic significance."
 
In other words your need for, my need for worth is so powerful that whatever we base our identity and value on we essentially "deify."
 
Keller writes, "We will look to it with all the passion and intensity of worship and devotion, even if we think of ourselves as highly irreligious."
 
What or in whom are you finding your "cosmic significance?" 
 
The approval of others?  Possessions?  Yourself?  Your appetites (pleasure seeking)?  Your family?  Your spouse?  Your children?  T.V.?  Money?
 
I would suggest that the only place to find true significance and self worth is in God. 
 
So...why not seek to deepen your relationship with God today.
 
Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Planting seeds reaping goodness

Pastor James tells us in James 3:17, "Peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness."
 
It's a biblical principle - but also a principle of life.
 
What you sow is what you are going to reap.
 
If you want people to cooperate with you - you must cooperate with them.
 
If you want people to be nice to you, you've got to be nice to them.
 
If you want people to compromise with you, you've got to compromise with them.
 
Whatever you give out - is what you are going to get back.
 
If you find yourself in conflict, somehow you are giving out part of that.
 
It takes two for conflict.
 
So ask yourself, "what did I do?"  "What seeds am I planting?"
 
If you are always planting seeds of griping, complaining, arguing, hassling, and putting down your spouse, guess what?  You are going to reap conflict.
 
Whatever seeds (as James writes) you are planting in your marriage (or in any relationship) is what you are going to grow.
 
I encourage you today to start planting seeds of peace and compromise.  Seek first to understand and then to be understood - and take the initative.  Don't wait for them.
 
When somebody offends you - you go to the Lord - but you also go to them.
 
Just a thought for a Wednesday

Thursday, September 25, 2014

History together

The positive side of looking to the past is that it helps us remember those times when God came through, I mean really came through in a time of need.
 
And as God comes through, in a very ironic sense, we learn to trust God.
 
Why?  Because we have history together.
 
Do you trust God?
 
Do you really trust God?
 
Most of us at one time or another have been challenged in this area.
 
One author writes, "I remember watching a father play with his little boy, repeatedly throwing him in the air and catching him just before he hit the ground.  The child was relaxed and having a great time saying, "Do it again!  Do it again!"
 
I thought, "If that were me, I'd be as stiff as a board."  I asked the father, "Can you explain why your child is so relaxed, even when he's out of control?"
 
"It's very simple," he said.  "We have a history together.  We've played this game before, and I've never dropped him."
 
Some of you today may feel like you are free falling without a parachute. 
 
Some of you are up in the air today and not exactly sure what's happening or where  you are going next.  All I can say to you, right now, where you are at is this:  Relax.
 
Do you best, knowing today that God has never dropped you before, and he won't drop you now. 
 
And maybe, just maybe, you and I will discover that when God is all we have - God is all we need.
 
That God is enough.
 
Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Eternal praise and worship

Did you know that your praise and worship is eternal?
 
Yep, it is.
 
Revelation 5:8 tells us, "And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb.  Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints."
 
Revelation 8:3 tells us, "Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar.  He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne.  The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel's hand."
 
The Greek word translated here as prayers is also translatable as worship.  It is not simply the petitions of the saints, but their praise and worship as well. 
 
The worship that they have lifted up before God over all time and eternity - it has been put into incense form, and preserved for eternity - to be presented before God.
 
When the great worshippers who stand before God's presence begin to worship (in Revelation) they also present the worship of the saints on earth!
 
In other words, your praise and worship is preserved in the heavens, throughout eternity!
 
Here is a word for you today:  There is something in life that is permanent (besides death and taxes).
 
God has chosen to preserve your praise. 
 
I encourage you to take a moment and do something today that will last - forever.  Lift up your voice in praise and worship to God.
 
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Character and integrity

Someone once said that "character is who you are in the dark."

When no one else is around - or looking.

Who are you when you are by yourself?
 
Integrity is not what we do as much as who we are.
 
Image is what people think we are.  Integrity is what we really are.
 
The word "integrity" comes from the Latin word "sinceros" (where we get "sincerity"), which comes basically from the phrase "without wax."
 
Potters fired jars in ovens.  Often, they were too hasty in firing them and the jars came out with cracks in them.  It was common practice to fill in and hide these cracks with wax.  But every once in a while, a vessel would come out with no cracks.
 
It was a whole, valuable vessel, and on the bottom they would write in Latin, "sinceros."
 
Sincere.
 
A vessels of integrity, with no cracks.  It's a whole vessel.
 
That's what God wants us to be.
 
Remember, today, my friends - that God "never leaves us nor forsakes us."
 
Both is the good times - and those time when we are living in "hiding."
 
Just a challenging thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I am grateful for the awesome sense of worship in our services yesterday.

Pastor Brian and our worship team did a great job of leading us into God's presence!

Worship is not about me - worship is about God (we will talk about this - this coming Sunday).

Serious.  Serious.  Serious.  That is how we are to approach our worship.

Many new guests in both services yesterday!

I can't wait for next Sunday to be here - which I think is a good sign if the lead pastor says that!  :)

Let's all be in prayer for the situation with ISIS.  Rough stuff. 

I believe that we are living in the end times.  I really do.  I believe that if I have the privilege of living for another 20 years - that the rapture will take place during my life time.

Life groups!  If you haven't  yet signed up for a life group - we encourage you to do so

I appreciated the life group leaders who set up a table in the foyer.  It is important that others in our church family know about your group!

If you are looking for information about a life group, please click on: 
 
thestonechurch.org/life_groups.  Then "browse life group listing" and find a group near you and get connected!

Or...feel free to call Pastor Brian at:  708 3852770.

Life groups change lives!

You are loved and appreciate, my friends.  All of you.

Dallas Cowboys won yesterday - coming back from a 21 point deficit.  Incredible.

Beautiful day in Chicago.  First day of fall. 

Is it me - or are the ads for the office of governor of the state of Illinois already annoying?  Okay, we get it - each of you thinks the other is a crook (written with irony).

Rule of political office:  when in doubt - throw mud (not good).

That's one of the reasons (and there are many) that I continually say the church is not a democracy where two opposing parties tear each other down.  The church is a theocracy where we are to operate out of a basis and foundation of love, acceptance and forgiveness.

I encourage you to consider inviting a friend to one of our Sunday morning services next Sunday.

Love you all.......