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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Living in isolation

Little by little, step by step, we are becoming a church that desires to actively engage the world - in order that people might come to know Christ.

God is calling us to move beyond our "holy huddles" and get into the game!
 
We all agree that people, all people, non-churched people need the Lord.
 
BTW, before we go on - I encourage you to invite someone to come this coming Sunday morning to Stone Church!

Let me share with you this story that I read today.

Krish Kandiah writes:

"When I was young, growing up in the United Kingdom, my family and I could always count on our next-door neighbor, Mrs. Oglive, to be around.  We left a spare key with her in case we got locked out.

We forgot our keys quite often, and she was always there - morning, afternoon, and night - to let us in.

Mrs. Oglive never went out.  She suffered from agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces.  Having lived next door to her for 40 years now, I still haven't seen her venture past her doorway.  She wasn't always this way.  She has pictures on her  mantelpiece of less anxious days, from her honeymoon with Mr. Oglive and from a day at the beach with her children.

But after her husband died, Mrs. Oglive began to isolate herself.  As a child, I saw opportunity in this:  Her garden resembled a jungle, and I earned some pocket money by pretending to be Indiana Jones armed with a machete slicing through the undergrowth, cleaning the path to her front door.

As an adult, I can only imagine the heavy cloud of fear and frustration that surrounds her.  Now frail and in the twilight of life, Mrs. Oglive's curtains are almost always drawn.  But now and then, I still get locked out, and as she hands me the spare key, I am glad to see she is still alive."

So many Christians look at the world from behind closed curtains, complaining about the culture we live in rather than engaging it - and ministering toward changing it in a godly way.
 
Many churches isolate themselves from their surrounding communities - suffering from the fear of divergent viewpoints and lifestyles.
 
God calls us, my dear friends, to reach the world with the gospel of Jesus!
 
Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

God's focus on you

I often write about the necessity to focus in on God.
 
Hebrews tells us (Hebrews 12:2) to "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith."
 
That is so true.  As I focus on Christ, the things of this world are "strangely dim" as we sing.
 
But did you know that God is focused on you as well?
 
God is watching you, not as a police officer following you in your car to make sure you are not speeding, but as a father would follow one of his children to make sure that they are safe.
 
God has you on his speed-dial.
 
God wants to have a relationship with you.
 
And even more than that, God desires to me every need, ever specific need that you have.
 
Down to the smallest of things?  Yes, down to the smallest of things.
 
This morning, I lost something, couldn't find it - looked all over the house - and I asked softly, "Jesus, can you help me locate this item?"
 
Within a matter of minutes - I found it.  My eyes were suddenly opened to where the item was.
 
Is that a coincidence?  My opinion is that in our relationship with Christ - there are no coincidences.
 
Does that mean we don't have free will?  No, but it does mean that when I ask, about anything, God is concerned and God will answer my prayer.
 
Let me leave you with some scriptures that I read last evening at our Tuesday evening prayer time.
 
They are found in Psalms 139.
 
"O Lord, you have searched me and  you know me.   You know when I sit and when I rise.  You perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.  You hem me in - behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain."  Psalms 139:1-6.
 
My last word for you and I today?  Don't hesitate to bring anything, and I do mean anything to God in prayer.
 
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:
 
I trust you had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!
 
Many, many thanks for those who have had family members who have given there lives for our freedom.  We are extremely grateful for your sacrifice!
 
Debbie and I "grilled" by having a hamburger at the Outback Steakhouse.  :)  :)
 
Sometimes a good hamburger is a lot better than a steak!
 
I appreciate the response to the teaching yesterday.  God calls us to "keep on walking"!
 
My dear friends:  Don't quit!  Keep on going!  The difficult season you are in - will end!
 
Just about the time I begin to believe in the 2015 Chicago White Sox - they lose a bunch of games.
 
While we take needed vacations - I am thankful God does not.
 
God is always there - always present.  Always able to meet our every need.
 
Paul tells us in Philippians 4:19:  "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."
 
I like that last part:  "According to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus."
 
You and I both know that God "owns" everything.  Everything we have comes from him.  "His glorious riches" is like God giving us a blank check - with His name signed at the bottom. 
 
God says, "whatever you need"  (Notice I write the word, "need" and not "want") I will supply!
 
Does that mean that God will supply my car payment?  Yes.
 
Does that mean that God will supply my college tuition?  Yes.
 
Our God is so loving, so caring, that he desires to meet the needs of His children.
 
Love you all.......

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Actions steps

Call them what you want:  Character flaws, addictions, bad habits, momentary loses of judgment - mistakes, failures and sin can bind us and keep us from the abundant life that Jesus longs for us to have.
 
What can we do?
 
Let me give you 5 actions steps that you can take to break out of those things in your life that are hindering you and causing you to be "less than you can be in Christ."
 
Acknowledge that you have flaws. 
 
What is it in  your life that is keeping you defeated and becoming what you should be?
 
Is it lust?  Jealousy?  Revenge?  Unforgiveness?  Anger?  Gossip?
 
David said in Psalms 38:18, "I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin."
 
Admit you need help.
 
This is huge.  Probably the biggest action step you can take.  Until you admit that you are vulnerable and imperfect,  you will never experience victory.
 
David said in Psalms 34:17, "The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles." 
 
Remember:  What you can't talk about - you are in bondage to.
 
Avoid temptation.
 
Don't place yourself in situations where you know you are vulnerable. 
 
If you have a problem with gossip - stay away from people who gossip!
 
Ask for help.
 
It is not enough to admit you need help, or to avoid temptation, you also need to ask for help. 
 
Ask for God's help.  Ask for a spiritual leader's help.  Ask for Christian professional help.  Take proactive steps to reach out for guidance and counsel. 
 
Please understand - no one can do that for you.  You must ask for help.
 
Assimilate God's truth into your life.
 
Read God's Word and put it into practice.
 
The psalmist writes in Psalms 119:11, "I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you." 
 
Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Conflict and unilateral forgiveness

You've been in conflict with someone(s) before and so have I.
 
One of the normal goals in conflict is the restoration of the relationship through forgiveness.  While you and I might not resolve every issue - we can restore the relationship - and then work on the issues.
 
But have you ever thought about forgiving before the conversation of restoration takes place?
 
Have you ever thought about forgiving "that person" before you walk into the "peace conference"?
 
Paul writes in Colossians 3:13, "You must make allowances for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you.  Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others."
 
I interpret that verse to mean that I must not only forgive a person who has offended me after I have relayed to them my hurts and grievances - but before I even speak with them!
 
The Bible says in Proverbs 19:11, "A  man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense."
 
What does that mean?  Well, people hurt us all the time.  If every time you get your feelings hurt or you are wounded you want to turn it into a battle - you will live your life in turmoil, bitterness and resentment.
 
Please don't misunderstand me.  I am not saying that you avoid conflict resolution.  The longer conflict is avoided - the worse it gets.  I am saying that if you can forgive an offense and move on with life and it not come up like every time  you think of that person or see them, you can live in freedom.
 
At the same time - the conflict needs to be resolved.
 
But in the midst of that conflict resolution - instead of wanting to hurt the other person as much as they have hurt you (and wanting them to come and fall of their faces in repentance and groveling for forgiveness) - have an attitude of forgiveness as you walk into the meeting.  Come with a heart of making peace and not war.  Come wanting to reconcile and not to perpetuate the problem.
 
I am asking you to forgive - before you meet with that person.
 
It is called "unilateral forgiveness."  Forgiveness given even before it is asked for. 
 
Jesus on the cross said, "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."  No one was asking for forgiveness - but He forgave.
 
Does that mean that there won't be consequences of that person's actions?  No, there will always be consequences.
 
Does that make the other person right?  No, forgiveness doesn't make the other person right, forgiveness sets you free - and opens a window for the restoration of the relationship.
 
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Life and baseball

I am often asked which sport I like the best.  Here is how I respond:
 
I like to watch football on television, play basketball, and watch baseball in person.
 
There is something about a ballgame (in the summer) with the sound of the crack of the bat, hot dogs and the fresh air that is wonderful.
 
Here's what I know about baseball.  It is predicated on precision and predictability.
 
Steven Roberts writes, "A .260 hitter might have a good or bad year, but eventually he will revert to his norm.  He will hit .260.  It's the same with pitching.  Conventional hurlers deliberately try to spin the ball in a certain way.  Depending on that spin, the ball will sink or curve, break left or right."
 
"But there is one notable exception to baseball's predictability - the knuckleball.  A good knuckleball hardly pins at all.  Because a knuckler doesn't spin, it is entirely unpredictable......As a result, the pitcher and the catcher - let alone the hitter - have no idea where the ball is going."
 
Doesn't that describe life?
 
Have you ever caught yourself saying, "it is always something?"
 
Sometimes life throws us a curveball.  But sometimes it is even worse.  We are thrown a knuckleball where it is like trying to eat Jell-O with chop sticks. 
 
Nothing we do is right.  Everything we try doesn't work.  We don't know what to do.
 
A few suggestions when the "knuckle ball" comes:
 
Realize that it is a season of difficulty.
 
Realize that God is in control.
 
Realize that while you might "strike out" this time - there is always another at-bat.
 
Don't quit.  Keep on going.  You will eventually hit a home run.
 
Just a thought for a Tuesday.
 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:
 
It was fun hearing our congregation singing some of the old choruses we used to sing - and doing the motions to them!
 
Well done, my friends!
 
Do you have the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in your heart?
 
If you are happy and you know it - can you clap your hands?  Stomp your feet?  Say amen?  Do all three?
 
Can you smile awhile and give your face a rest?
 
Fun stuff!
 
Thanks to all of our volunteers - and everything they did in ministry that made yesterday such a success!
 
You are needed!  You are appreciated!
 
Some thoughts I didn't get to yesterday:
 
One of the greatest "joy-killers" is selfishness.  Selfishness is saying, 'I want what I want and  you want what you want and we don't get along together."
 
James 4:1,2:  "Where do all the fights and quarrels among you come from?  They come from your desires - which are constantly fighting with your bodies - you strongly desire things but you cannot get them, so you quarrel and fight."
 
James is saying that if you are experiencing a lack of joy in your relationships, it is because there is a power struggle between two selfish insecure people.
 
For a lot of us, the simple solution to solving our relational issues is to grow up:  stop being so self centered.
 
Everyone is concerned about their "rights".  How many are concerned about their responsibilities?
 
Perspective is not what we see, but the way we see it.
 
Get the right perspective.  When Goliath came against the Israelites, the soldiers all thought, "He's so big we can never kill him."  David looked at the same giant and thought, "He's so big, I can't miss."
 
Joy is the outward sign of inward faith in the promises of God.
 
"When I am afraid, I will trust in you."  Psalms 56:3
 
God can help you be a joyful person!
 
"Why be so gloomy and discouraged?  Trust in God!  Then I shall praise Him for His wonderful help.  He will make me smile again."  Psalms 43:5
 
Love you all......

Thursday, May 14, 2015

choosing our attitudes

It's been an interesting morning.
 
Three disconcerting events - bam, bam, bam - right in a row.
 
Nothing "earth shattering" but challenging none the less.
 
You ever have a morning like that?
 
Yet here's what I know:  I can still choose my attitude.
 
Attitude is a choice.
 
Life is full of surprises, and the adjustment of our attitudes is a daily, and I mean daily (if not hourly) project.
 
Someone once wrote, "the pessimist complains about the wind.  The optimist expects it to change.  The leader adjusts the sails."
 
I struggle - like you do - to maintain a good attitude.
 
And what do we do when our attitudes go south?
 
We blame.
 
Someone grumpy says, "I got up on the wrong side of the bed."  Is their a right side?
 
When failure begins to overwhelm them they say, "I was born on the wrong side of the tracks."  Is there a right side of the tracks?
 
When life plateaus and siblings are more successful it is, "Well, I was in the wrong birth order in my family."  Did God create you in that order?
 
When their marriage fails, they believe they married the wrong person.
 
On and on and on it goes.
 
Blaming everyone else for their situation.
 
Here's the thought of the day:  take total responsibility for your attitude.
 
You and I can't control what happens to us - but we can choose the attitude that we walk with.
 
Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Joy and the Holy Spirit

Are you living in the joy of the Lord?

This coming Sunday, May 17, 2015, we will be looking at the subject of joy.  True joy.  A spiritual joy.

Our main verse (from Acts 13) will be Acts 13:52:  "And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit."

It is so important that we understand the connection between being filled with the Holy Spirit and Joy.
Paul writes in Ephesians 5:18 that we are to be "filled with the spirit."  That verb is in the present tense, in other words, we are to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit.
Being filled with the Holy Spirit is a onetime act called the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4), but in Ephesians 5 encourages us to continually be filled.
I was baptized in the Holy Spirit when I was 16.
Yet I can't rely on yesterday's baptism to walk in joy.
I need the Holy Spirit to the level of my capacity now, not just when I was sixteen. 
I face greater challenges today than when I was baptized in the Holy Spirit.  So - I need more of the Holy Spirit in my life today because I am so many more trials today than yesterday.  I have more challenges and more responsibilities.
To walk with joy - I need to be refilled today.
As we walk in the spirit, as we flow in the anointing - we expertise the joy of the Lord.
And the joy of the Lord is our what?  Our strength.   (Nehemiah 8:10)
David writes in Psalms 16:11, "You will show me the path of life; in your presence if fullness of joy, at your right hand there are pleasures forevermore."
In God's presence is joy.  When you are down and out and feeling depressed; place yourself in the presence of the Lord.  Be filled with the spirit.
Joy is not just about happiness and health, joy is about strength.
The joy of the Lord is our strength.  It is our power to win and our enemy Satan knows that.
Satan know that if he can still our joy he can rob us of our strength.
You can pray this today:  "I will walk in joy.  I am taking authority over the devil, the joy thief!  Greater is He in me than He who lives in the world!"
Rely upon God's Spirit and God's joy in your life - and walk in victory over the enemy.
Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Doing the hard thing

I have found that most of the time in life - the way to success comes through the difficult path - whether it be success at home, at the job, or in our walk with Christ.
 
Each day brings it own challenges, its own "crossroads." 
 
Am I going to take the "easy path" or am I going to take the "hard path".
 
Am I going to do the easy thing or the hard thing?
 
Jesus said that it is as we die - we live.  As we give - we receive. 
 
Truly, the path to fulfilling our purpose in life is, as Scott Peck once wrote - "The Road Less Traveled."
 
I believe that I am speaking to someone today who has put off confronting someone they love with the truth.  I believe that I am speaking today to someone who has put off dealing with an addiction.
 
I believe that I am speaking to someone today who has put off going to the doctor.  I believe that I am speaking today to someone who continues to put off making a difficult decision.  I believe that I am speaking today to someone who has put off dealing with a relational conflict.
 
Ironically enough, the longer I take the easy path - the worse the situation will become.
 
Wars are fought continually because good people refuse to do the right thing - and let evil triumph so to speak.
 
In the early part of my ministry, John Stott was a spiritual hero of mine (through his books).  A brilliant theologian with a pastor's heart.
 
His last bit of advice to his assistant before he died in 2011 was simply this:  "Do the hard thing."
 
Do the hard thing.
 
Dr. Stott believed that choosing the easy trail, the road most taken, and the path of least resistance can only end in mediocrity - even if it comes with praise.
 
Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Sometimes we are all prompted to stand back in amazement and what God has done - and is doing - and say "We thank you, Lord!"

If you wouldn't mind, as you are reading this - pause and say with me, "We thank you, Lord"!

"We thank you, Lord"!

Pastor Brian came into my office this morning and shared, "Yesterday was a home run" - and truly it was!

10 baptized in water!

15 new members recognized!

A miracle story shared!

What a mighty God we serve - even the angels bow before Him.

Let's all continue to work and serve and pray and remain faithful - and take advantage of the God-given momentum that we are experiencing!

Didn't Debbie just "nail it" yesterday?  I, like you, appreciated her sermon - her openness, her vulnerability - many shared with me (both men and women) of how they were ministered to.

Thank you Debbie for sharing - and for all that you do at the church in ministry!

You are loved - especially by me!  :) :)

Thanks to all who helped yesterday special.  I trust that you and your family participated with the photo booth opportunity.

Onward and Upward!

Love you all......

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Mom's Day

None of us would be where we are today without our moms (Just call me Captain Obvious).

Mom's are the ultimate multi-taskers - able to leap tall buildings with a single bound - while changing a diaper and cooking dinner at the same time.
 
Here's what I know about moms:
 
They never get a break.
 
There is the story of a 15 year old boy who was hungry at the end of the day.  He found his mother in bed and was suddenly seized with concern. 
 
"Mom, are you sick or something?"
 
"Well, as a matter of fact," his mother replied weakly, "I am not feeling too well."
 
The boy responded with a furrowed brow, and after a brief pause, he then added:  "Don't you worry a bit about dinner.  I'm getting pretty big now, and I'll be happy to carry you down to the stove!"
 
This Sunday, dads and kids - give mom a break!
 
Secondly, they are the most quizzed people on the planet.
 
In a recent survey, involving 1,000 mothers - they found that on average, from breakfast to late afternoon, the stay at home mom faces one question every two minutes and 36 seconds.
 
That adds up to about 105,120 questions per year.
 
The questions spike during meal times.  Girls aged four are the most curious, asking an incredible 390 questions per day.  On the other end of the spectrum, boys aged none ask the least amount of questions.
 
According to the survey, the moms claimed that these were the top five toughest questions (in order):
 
Why is water wet?  Where does the sky end?  What are shadows made of?  Why is the sky blue?  How do fish breathe under water?
 
Moms, God bless you!
 
"May God give you strength, wisdom and knowledge as you raise your children as, "unto the Lord".
 
You are appreciated and loved!
 
BTW, Debbie will be speaking this coming Sunday in both morning services.  You won't want to miss her sharing!  Bring a friend!
 
 
 

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Harmful or harmless?

How do I deal (and make right decisions) with the gray areas of life?

How do I know whether something is harmful or harmless in my walk with Christ?

Ask yourself 4 questions (from Greg Laurie):
  1.  Does it build me up spiritually?
We all have free time - am I using my free time to grow in God?

Am I, in some form or fashion, growing in the Lord?

For instance - what do you listen to in my car as I drive (Just as an example)?

You have control over what you listen to.
 
Garbage in - Garbage out.
Your mind is like one giant computer that is receiving input at all times.  What are you inputting into your computer?
What are you feeding your heart and  your mind?
  1. Does it bring me under its power?
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:12, "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient."
The ultimate goal is to be under the power of one thing:  Jesus Christ.
I don't want to be under the power of food, television, gambling, alcohol.
I want to be under the power of God.
  1.  Do I have an uneasy conscience about it?
Paul writes in Romans 14:23, "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin."
In other words, "Whatsoever is done without conviction of its approval by God is sinful."
What do you do when there are no specific Biblical guidelines?
It all seems right - other Christians are doing it - so you proceed.
However, as you do, you are troubled in  your spirit.  You are uneasy.
That is your cue to shut it down.  Stop right there before your mind starts rationalizing.
  1. Would it cause someone to stumble?
This is the most important question of all.
Not everyone is tripped up by the same sin.
For one person, it may be lust.
For another - the stumbling block may be greed.
Another person may look at someone who has a problem with lust or greed and say, "Thank God, I would never do those things"
What is his problems?  Pride!
There are plenty of stumbling blocks out there to go around. 
4 important questions to ask yourself today.
Just some thoughts for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Paradox

It is an interesting paradox.
 
To succeed (in anything in life) I must choose to persevere. 
 
There is no accomplishment without determination - in other words, you and I will not achieve and fulfill God's purpose for our lives without determining to persevere.
 
Paul writes that we are to (in Philippians 2:12) to "continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling."
 
Who is to work it out?  We are!
 
Whenever you are tempted to quit before the final bell - whether it is finishing a job at work or completing a degree or riding out a rough season in your family or marriage - keep on going.
 
At the same time, know this:  There is no burden too heavy for Christ to carry.
 
Paul goes on to write (in Philippians 2:13), "for it is God who work in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."
 
No matter how determined you and I are to succeed, life can be overwhelming. 
 
So the paradox is this:  Persevere - while at the same time give your burdens to God.
 
Work hard - while knowing that God will work in you to accomplish the task.
 
And know that in the end - God will make all things good - according to his good purpose.
 
Just a thought for a Tuesday.