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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mercy always triumphs over judgment

Pastor James writes in James 2:13, "Mercy always triumphs over judgment."

So true.

The great Scottish preacher Alexander McClaren once wrote, "Be kind to everyone you meet because everyone you meet is facing a battle."

And John Ortberg writes, "the only normal people I know are the people I don't know well."
 
Everyone is carrying a wound.
 
And here is what I know about wounds:  You can break an arm, and we know in six weeks broken bones heal.  But how many of you - as you are reading this - read this with a broken heart?
 
It is easy to see a cast on an arm, but it is difficult to read a broken heart.
 
Six weeks doesn't suffice to heal most broken hearts.  It takes years, sometimes decades.
 
You are like me in that someone can approach us and mention one name, just one name, and it can bring tears to our eyes. It opens up old wounds.
 
All someone has to do is to mention one circumstance and there's a knot still deep inside.
 
So the last thing you need is for someone to point a finger at you.
 
My encouragement to you today?  Let's all walk in love, acceptance and forgiveness - and remember that everyone is hurting to some extent.
 
Let's all continue to put grace on the front burner of our relationships with one another.
 
Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

I was very thankful the snow held off (the little that we received) until yesterday afternoon.

As one of the pastors at our church - I am prayerfully "glued" to the weather channel from Friday evening through Sunday morning - watching as to whether the snow will prohibit people from coming to church or not.  :)  :)

I just wanted everyone to know how grateful I am to have a spouse who loves me, supports me and always encourages me.

I'll tell you what, gang, we are genuinely gaining some spiritual momentum in our church!

It is exciting!

I am thrilled!

Can I give you what is almost becoming a continual word? 

Invite someone to one of our Sunday morning services - this Sunday.

As we learned yesterday:  You are significant.  You are needed in the body of Christ!  You can, with one positive word, change someone's life!

Is it me - or is the NFL Pro Bowl a waste of time and money?

I would guess that the recognition of being recognized by their peers as being All Pro is enough.

My prediction for this coming Sunday?

Seattle 24 - New England 21. 

You read it here first.

Worship is spending time with God - recognizing Him for who He is.

Praise is spending time with God - thanking him for what he does.

We need both.

With the constant drip of negativity that comes from the world - let's all be a positive force of encouragement in a complaining world.

Can I share something with you "out of the blue"?  We here in America are following the historical pattern of Ancient Rome (an empire which fell) - and the biblical pattern of the negative domino effect found in Romans 1:18-25.   

Could it be that God's most important desire for us is to turn from our wicked ways and follow Him?

I know that you agree with me in saying, "Maranatha, Even so, come Lord Jesus."

Let me give you a life changing thought:  Prayer.  Tuesday evening, January 27.  Stone Church Chapel.  6:30 P.M. to 7:30 P.M.

Love you all.......

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hanging around the right people

We've been talking a lot lately (on Sunday  mornings) about expanding our relational borders to include those who don't know Christ.
 
It is so important that we "go and tell," and not just project, "come and hear."  Both are needed, but our God-given role as followers of Christ is to be "witnesses" (Acts 1:8) for Christ.
 
At the same time, as you and I desire to grow in God, we must hang out with the right people - namely Christians who are either "on fire" for God - or are longing to grow in Him in a deeper way.
 
To put it succinctly, we are who we hang around.
 
We become like those who we spend time with.
 
If you consistently hang out with a gossip - you will become a gossip.
 
If you consistently hang out with a critic - you will become a critic.
 
If you consistently hang out with negative people - you will become negative.
 
Sometimes when I am around gossips or critics or negative people for any length of time - I just want to go home and take a shower.  The "dirt" of their attitudes just lingers.
 
But if you hang out with someone who's desire is to draw closer to the Lord, you will find yourself trying to become more intimate with God.
 
My encouragement to you today?  Find a Christian that  models intimacy with God.
 
Find someone that just walks close to God.  An Enoch so to speak in the faith.
 
Get around them.  Hang out with them.  Spend time with them.
 
To use this analogy:  It is like putting a poker into the fire (in the fireplace).  You put the poker in the fire and it gets warm, even hot.  You place the poker away from the fire in the fireplace and it grows cold.
 
Intimacy with God is more caught than taught.  And if you are around people on fire for God - you will catch that same fervor.  It begins to "rub off on you," in a very positive sense.
 
And before I go - let me add on this thought:  That also includes participating in a forum that encourages growing in God.  Allow yourself to be in a group that aids you in your search to draw closer to God:  A prayer group.  A prayer partner.  A small group. 
 
Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Living in the moment

On my way to work this morning, I observed a woman behind me, driving, smoking a cigarette, looking on her phone, and talking to her young child in the back seat - all at the same time.
 
I don't think it would be a stretch for me to say that you would agree with me when I write that there is something inherently wrong with that.
 
We live in a day and age where multi-tasking is has not only become an art form - but is much admired and respected.
 
I get that.  I multi-task, and so do  you (I just had a conversation in my office and answered two emails - while I was writing this).
 
But the point of the day is that:  God calls us to live in the moment
 
Jesus said it this way in the sermon on the  mount (Matthew 6:34):  "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."
 
In other words:  Live in the moment.
 
Do we plan?  Yes.  Do we learn from the past?  Yes.
 
But are we called by God to drain everything we can out of every moment that we live in? 
 
Absolutely.
 
Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not yet here, today is all we have.
 
Let me leave you with this story.
 
In his "One minute uplift," newsletter, Rick Ezell tells this story: 
 
"A university professor tells of being invited to speak at a military base in December and their meeting an unforgettable soldier named Ralph.  Ralph had been sent to meet him at the airport; and after they had introduced themselves, they headed toward the baggage claim.  As they walked down the concourse, Ralph kept disappearing - once to help an older woman whose suitcase had fallen open, once to lift two toddlers  up to where they could see Santa Claus, and again to give directions to someone who was lost.  Each time he came back with a big smile on his face.
 
"Where did you learn to do that?"  The professor asked.
 
"Do what?"  Ralph said.
 
"To be so helpful and considerate to others."
 
"Oh," Ralph said, "during the war, I guess."
 
"Then he told the professor about his tour of duty in Vietnam, about how it was his job to clear minefields, and how he watched his friends blow up before his eyes, one after another.  "I learned to live between steps," he said.
 
"I ever knew whether the next one would be my last, so I learned to get everything I could out of the  moment between when I picked up my foot and when I put it down again.  Every step I took was a whole new world, and I guess I've just been that way ever since."
 
He finished by saying this:  "A grace-filled life is living between the steps.  It understands the remarkable gift of today."
 
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Is Jesus like you or are you like Jesus?

Is Jesus like you or are you like Jesus?
 
Don't answer too quickly.
 
Let me explain.
 
In his book, "With," Skye Jethani tells about a test that Scott McKnight gives every year to his incoming group of college students:  The test begins with a series of questions about what students think Jesus is like. 
 
The 24 questions are then followed by a second set - with slightly altered language - in which the students answer questions about their own personalities.
 
Do you know what they found out?  Everyone thinks Jesus is just like them!
 
Scott McKnight added,  "The test results also suggest that, even though we like to think we are becoming more like Jesus, the reverse is probably more the case:  we try to make Jesus like ourselves."
 
A.W. Tozer said, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."
 
What do you think about God when you think of Him?
 
I would suggest that we start with what God is like (from the Bible) and then move on to what we think God is like (from our own lives and personal experiences).
 
And......I am thankful that Jesus is not like me - but that I am trying to be more like Him.
 
Just a thought for a Tuesday.
 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend
 
I am very, very grateful for the people who accepted Christ yesterday.
 
God is good.
 
Prayer can move mountains. 
 
Prayer can move the vilest, most evil person to God - and if that is true - and it is - God can truly transform the life of the person you are praying for.
 
Prayer is simply having a conversation with God.
 
In prayer - I encourage you to listen to God's response.
 
It is all by God's grace.
 
Sometimes we are harder on people than God is.
 
Rejection is never fun.
 
We are called to seek the approval of one:  God.  When we receive God's approval, everything else falls into place.
 
If you get a chance this coming Saturday, come on out and catch one of our Upward Basketball games, and mingle with those who are coming.
 
We are doing everything we can to refocus our church this year - on outreach.  Looking beyond the four walls of our church.
 
Keep it simple, my dear friends:  Come on Sunday morning.  Attend a life group.  Serve in a ministry.
 
When God is all you have, God is all you need.
 
Sometimes one encouraging word will carry me for a couple of weeks.
 
Condolences to my Green Bay Packer friends. 
 
I will give my Super Bowl prediction next week.
 
Isn't it neat to see Russell Wilson give God glory and pray at the end of the game?!
 
It will be interesting to see how the Green Bay Packer player who fumbled the onside kick (toward the end of the game) responds.
 
I sincerely feel for him.  I trust he responds well.
 
Failure is never final - unless you let it be.
 
The key to failure is to pick yourself up - and try again.
 
While our culture will define someone by their one mistake - (in any area of life; not just football) -  our true significance only comes from God.
 
God is the God of the second chance (I am obviously speaking of something beyond - and far more serious than a football game).
 
I am grateful for all of our volunteers - thank you for your service at our church!
 
With much love........
 
 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

power for living

Sometimes we don't know what to say.
 
You've been there and so have I.
 
Your spirit is crushed - your spirit is overwhelmed.
 
If one more thing happens.......
 
You know that you need God to touch you, you know that there is a circumstance in life that needs God, but you don't know what to say.
 
You don't know what to do.
 
All you can do is to say:  "Jesus, help me."  "I need you Lord!"
 
And God listens, and God hears and God answers.
 
But you can also tap into the anointing of God to help you as well.  You can also wait on the Holy Spirit because he knows how to pray and what to pray. 
 
Paul writes in Romans 8:26,27, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will."
 
The Holy Spirit will always pray in alignment with the will of God.
 
The anointing of the Holy Spirit brings power - that does not necessarily have to be equated with chills or emotional goose bumps.
 
It isn't always charged with emotion.
 
The anointing can help you make it through life - it can give you the power you need for living.
 
I encourage you to pause right now, and ask God for His anointing on your life.
 
The anointing will take authority over your situations (Read Psalms 133:3).
 
The anointing will lift burdens from you shoulder (Read Isaiah 10:27).
 
The anointing will break bondages and restore you to the calling that God has on your life.
 
Cry out to God for that anointing today!
 
Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Summarizing your life in six words

If you were asked to summarize your life in six words, what would they be?
 
I was reading today of an online magazine that asked that question several years ago.
 
It was inspired by a legendary challenge posed to Ernest Hemingway to write a six-word story that resulted in the classic, "For sale:  baby shoes, never worn."
 
The magazine was flooded with so many responses that the site almost crashed, and the responses were eventually turned into a book.
 
Here are some of the more funny to ironic to inspiring responses:
 
One tooth, one cavity; life's cruel
 
Savior complex makes for many disappointments
 
Cursed with cancer - Blessed with friends  (That one was written by a 9 year old boy with cancer)
 
The psychic said I'd be richer
 
One long train to darkness  (That one is 5 words not 6)
 
Not a good Christian, but trying
 
Thought I would have more impact
 
I encourage you today to respond to this blog:  Either by Facebook or the blog itself.
 
How would you summarize your life in six words?
 
The challenge of the six word limitation is in its demand to focus on what matters most, to capture briefly something of significance.
 
How would you summarize your life, or just last year, or maybe this upcoming year in six words?
 
Here is mine:  He did the best he could.
 
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Let me know if you need anything

First of all, let me say, that when you and I say to anyone (in grief, dealing with an illness, out of a job), it is not sinful or illegal to say, "let me know if you need anything, " or "if there is anything I can do, let me know."
 
It is just that we need to stop saying that.
 
I think we all feel very uncomfortable to actually reach out to someone (in our time of need) who has said that to us.  We don't want to put anyone out.  We feel uneasy in asking anyone to give of their valuable time doing menial tasks for us. 
 
And on the flipside, most of the time when you and I say the phrase (I do and you do to) it makes us feel better about ourselves, as if somehow we have done our "duty" in helping that person out. 
 
But here is the challenge:  We want people to know we care, but simply caring is not enough.
 
We know they will never call us - and deep inside - we hope they never do.
 
It is just a fact of life.
 
It's a portion of this game we can "life."
 
But for a moment, look at Jesus.  Jesus was more than a man of words - he was a man of action.  He was constantly putting what he did in line with what he said.
 
Pastor James tells us to be "doers of the word."
 
If we are to be like Jesus (which we all want to be) we must do something to help someone in need.  Send a card, make a meal, drop off some groceries, make a visit or phone call - without waiting to be asked.
 
Be pro-active.  Don't wait on that phone call from that person who is hurting.
 
I challenge all of us (including myself) to obliterate this phrase from our vocabulary in 2015 - and to reach out to the hurting in their time of need.
 
Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend
 
The New Year always brings about a sense of freshness - a time to recommit (refocus) ourselves on the calling of God on our lives - both individually and corporately.
 
This is the year (in our church) of re:  Refocus.  Revive.  Refresh.  Renew.
 
God is moving!
 
It warms my heart to walk in to the gym on Saturday morning and see the gym filled with parents and kids participating in Upward Basketball - I would guess, most of whom, don't go to our church.
 
Just as important as growing deep in the faith is growing wide in seeing people come to Christ.
 
Deep and wide.
 
That's a goal to have - a God given goal. 
 
One of our strengths is that we provide opportunities for everyone to grow deep in the Lord.  Let's grow wide as well by seeing people connect to Christ!
 
Many, many thanks to all of our volunteers who help on Saturday with Upward.
 
Worship yesterday - anointed!
 
Tuesday evening prayer meeting:  6:30 P.M. - 7:30 P.M.
 
I encourage everyone to come "every once in a while" to our prayer meetings.  I realize that not everyone can come every Tuesday evening - I understand - but please place it on your scheduling plate to come every so often. 
 
You can I cannot give what we do not have (the life of Jesus and the anointing of the Holy Spirit that comes through prayer).
 
Let's continue to pray for those families who lost someone in the Paris massacre.
 
Religions can never be spread (ultimately) through war.  Only through peace, love and reconciliation.
 
We can't force someone to connect to Christ.
 
Only the Holy Spirit can do so.
 
Just a word for someone:  When it doubt - leave it out.
 
Reconciliation is the most important thing in any relationship.  Resolving every issue must always comes in second place.
 
You do not have to resolve every issue to be reconciled with someone.
 
So thankful for the moving of God this past week during our "Season of renewal."
 
Truly God was present - yet at the same time we desire "MORE"!
 
Please contact the church office for prayer - we as pastors consider it a privilege to have conversations with God about your needs!
 
Love you all.....

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Walking in victory

We heard a lot this week about the infilling, power and fire of the Holy Spirit.

Powerful.  Using the analogy of war, our altar area looked like a battlefield, with bodies strewn about under the power of God.
 
Many were changed, transformed and encouraged.
 
So went our "season of renewal".
 
I believe that the beginning of the year is a great time to renew ourselves in God.  To remind ourselves that it is, "not by might, nor by power but by the Spirit says the Lord of Hosts."  (Zechariah 4:6)
 
If we live in the Spirit we will find that all that is of the flesh in our lives is swallowed up.
 
If we live in the Spirit we will find that we can be free from all bondage.
 
Look at the disciples.
 
Before they received the Holy Spirit - they were living in bondage.
 
When Jesus said, "one of you shall betray me," they were doubtful of themselves and questioned, "Is it I?"  (Matthew 26:21-22)
 
They were very conscious of their own inner depravity and propensity to sin. 
 
Peter, being Peter, said, "though I should die with you, yet I will not deny you."  (verse 35).
 
The others said the same, but then all forsook Jesus and ran away.
 
But after the power of God fell upon them in the upper room, they were as bold as lions in facing the persecutions of the enemy. 
 
What made them so?  The purity and power that is by the Holy Spirit.
 
God can make you an overcomer.
 
When the Spirit of God comes into your surrendered spirit and soul he transforms you.
 
God is in you.  God is able to so transform and change you that all the "old man" has to go - before God's life in you.
 
Let me ask you this today.  Do you think that God has made you to be a failure?
 
Absolutely not.  God will never call you into anything (in our pilgrimage with him) without giving you the necessary authority and power to do what he has called you to do - especially when it comes to a daily walk with Him.
 
God made you to be a daughter or son of His.  To walk on this planet in the power of the Spirit, overcoming your flesh and defeating the devil - until nothing arises up within you except what is of the supernatural Spirit of God.
 
My word to you today?  Be an overcomer.  Once again, be filled with the Holy Spirit.
 
Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

confidence

One of my favorite passages is 1 John 5:14,15, "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he hears us; and if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desire of him."  (or what we ask for)

So much treasure is those two verses!

God's Word is so powerful!

Our confidence comes from God's Word and keeping our eyes on Jesus.

Being obedient to Him.

So, conversely, what can cause you to lose your confidence in your spiritual prilgrimage?

Not reading the Word.  Keeping your eyes on your problems.  Walking outside the realm of complete obedience to God.

You see, more than anything else - you and I need to have confidence as we walk with God - and face the ups and downs of life.

Confidence can be the difference between winning and losing in life, at your job, in sports and in any endeavor we tackle.

That confidence (in God) can especially help us when we don't feel like pressing on.  When our feelings overwhelm us from the pressures, problems and people that we have.

That's why, people of faith always follow and are obedient to God, in spite of their feelings.

The just live by faith and not their feelings.

God's promises never fail - Paul tells us in Romans 10:17 that "faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God."  - not my feelings.

So, walk in the confidence today, my dear friends, that comes from an abiding connection with God - for He will never fail you nor forsake you.

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Facebooking your problems

If there is one thing Debbie and I practice - it is vulnerability. 
 
Neither one of us are in tune with "fake" - we do our best to be as authentic as possible. 
 
And here what I know:  As Rick Warren says, "Revealing your feeling is the beginning of healing."
 
Sharing our needs, trials and problems with one another is so vital in the kingdom of God.
 
I can't deal with any issue in my life unless I admit that it is there - and then be willing to share it with other believers.  Whatever I can't talk about - I am in bondage to.
 
However, let's talk about the mechanism for doing so.
 
Let me explain.
 
When Debbie and I were on vacation, we came across an eclectic store that included in their items, T-shirts that had sometimes profound thoughts on them.
 
One of the T-shirts said this:  Face your problems, don't Facebook them.
 
It's not that I have an issue with anyone "Facebooking" (Isn't it interesting how that has now become a verb?) their issues, it is just that I hope that - that venue is the third or fourth choice for doing so.
 
I would suggest that the following pattern be considered with our trials:
 
I talk with God.
 
I speak with my support circle (as with a life group).
 
I put it on Facebook (for the whole world to see).
 
I call this "limited vulnerability" where I incrementally share my needs within the confines of the concentric relational circles of my life.
 
Some things I only share with God.  Something should only be shared with God and those I trust around me.  And then - some things can be made public - asking for many to pray.
 
To put it bluntly - Facebook is not God.  My default in the midst of difficulties is to come to God - His Word - and lay it on the altar - and then share it with the public across the world.
 
One disclaimer:  Can you put your trial on Facebook and ask everyone to pray?  Absolutely.  I like that.  But I guess  my point is - let's not put something on Facebook to avoid or deny a problem, or to substitute is for spending time in conversations with our Creator.
 
Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

If your thing is the "ABC's" of the church (attendance, building and cash), please be encouraged!

Things are on a "upswing" at our church.

But far more important than "nickels and noses" (and those two are important) is the fact that God is moving in a powerful way!

The anointing of the Holy Spirit is present.

Our goal is to offer (to our community) a supernatural moving of the Holy Spirit in a way that is culturally relevant to the age we live in.

We desire to be "supernaturally natural" to the extent that the "end game" of experiencing what we are experiencing around the altars in our services - is to grow in Christ and connect others to Him.

I would add to that - to glorify Jesus.

My encouragement to you today is to take what God is giving you in each service - and meditate on it in prayer, use it to grow in Christ in your daily walk (the way you speak, act and think) and propel you to be bold in sharing your faith.

Isn't it interesting that the continent that my grandfather went to in 1948 (Africa) as a missionary (to West Africa) - is the same continent that is now coming back to America to help us draw closer to God?

I am thankful for our brother, Bishop Murisa who is ministering the word in both the anointing and the authority of God (Bishop Murisa is from Tanzania).

Christmas break - one of our favorite Christmas vacations ever.  Great family times. 

At one point - we forgot what day of the week it was - now that - that is a vacation.

I am excited about this year - probably more than any other year.

I get to totally focus in on ministry this year - every other year that I have been at our church I have had the responsibility of dealing with contractors, architects, builders and lawyers.

Don't get me wrong - in a couple of years we will renew our vision of building a sanctuary, but it is nice to have a pause where our total focus is on ministry!

Would you consider coming this Sunday - I will be giving the theme, vision and focus for our church in 2015.

Love you all.......