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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Merry Christmas!

My prayer is that everyone will have a meaningful, peaceful Christmas.

The world is gravitating to "happy holidays." Let me say to you, "Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas!"

This is a prayer to God:

"Thanks, God, for the gift of your Son. I deeply appreciate the way that you forgive me for my mistakes and failures, lift me up when I am down, and strengthen me along the way.

Father, let me pray Psalms 93:

Lord, your reign, how majestic are your outer garments! You are clothed in majesty and as strong as an ox. In the midst of war, earthquakes, famine, hurricanes, and financial stress, you are in control!

You've been in control since the beginning of time, I am thankful that is an absolute that I can hang my emotional hat on.

Even nature is a sign that you are to be praised!

You are stronger and mightier than anything that this world might throw at us. I trust in you.

Your Word helps me and keeps me today and forever more!"

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Holding on to Jesus

Life is hard.

Life is unpredictable.

It's amazing the seasons we go through in life when it seems like "nothing is going right."

We can be happy one day and sad the next, healthy one day and sick the next, rich one day and poor the next, alive one day and dead the next.

Up and down, in and out, victories and defeats, life is anything but constant.

I would suggest to you that the only thing that is constant in our lives is a relationship with Jesus. Jesus Christ. Emmanuel or "God with us."

Born on Christmas day to save us from our sins.

In our rollercoaster world, Jesus is there to help us feel secure. Jesus is there for us to hold on to. Jesus is there at all times and we can trust in His presence.

Jesus is our Lord, our shepherd, our rock, our stronghold, our refuge, our brother, our guide and our friend.

During times of difficulty, I hang on to Jesus.

But even more importantly than knowing that I can hang on to Jesus is the fact that Jesus is hanging on to me. I'm in the palm of His hand.

Paul writes that, "neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depth, nor any created things whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39

Monday, December 19, 2005

Being God's glory

You can be God's glory.

Wow...What's that mean?

Well, let me give you a formula today. My spirit plus God's spirit, coming together, equals a "together" witness that I belong to God and I am a child of His.

Paul writes in Romans 8:16, "God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.

This confirmation touches every aspect of our lives. Paul says, "whatever you eat, then, or drink, and whatever else you do, do it all for the glory of God." Romans 10:31

That means that as I write this, I am doing it for the "glory of God." As I meet tonight with our leadership, we are doing it for "the glory of God."

When I live in constant communion and communication with God's Spirit, I can only be a witness, because wherever I go and whomever I meet, God's Spirit will show itself through me.

And God is glorified. May he be glorified today!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Friends and funerals

I'm just about ready to walk in and lead and speak at the funeral service for Thaine Crandall. Thaine, 85 years of age, was a friend of mine.

Compassionate and caring, kind and gracious.

I stood by his casket about 30 minutes ago, and once again the thought and realization came to me that we are all but dust. To dust we came into this world and to dust we go. All we are is dust in the wind.

Yet we as followers of Christ know that we receive new resurrected bodies and that we have eternal life. With God.

As I grow older, that thought becomes less of a cliche and more of a permanent truth for me to hang my emotional hat.

Life is here today and gone tomorrow.

I think I'm going to try to live today the best I can. Loving God and loving others.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Dealing with marriage and money

I have found that married couples generally fight (or have strong discussions) about sex and money (not in that order).

Here's an interesting article I pulled off the web called: "3 big reasons couples fight about money," by M.P. Dunleavely, a columnist.

Here it is:

"Arguments about money are often really struggles for power. Managing these issues can smooth out the bickering.

Like many married women, Anna, Beth, Stephanie and I have all fought with our spouses about money.

Big loud fights, small seething fights, ongoing tense "discussions" . . . pick your favorite form of financial conflict, and we've been there, done that. Recently.

You'd think that, with more than a year of experience in the Women in Red, we'd be so financially enlightened that silly money squabbles would be a thing of the past.

Nope. But the good news is, we've learned that it's possible to find true and lasting financial harmony with your mate the same way you achieve financial success in any other area of your life:Credit card interest out of control? Find a lower rate.

It takes time.

You must be patient.

Throwing things is bad.

You have to negotiate the power dynamic.

Did someone just say power? Yes.

When couples come into conflict over money, underneath the bickering over the Visa bill is a swarm of issues that are ultimately about power and control. In order to get in synch financially, you can't deal with money alone: Learning to navigate your own special, sometimes uncomfortable power dynamic is key."

Interesting stuff. Agree or disagree?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Putting "Christ" back into Christmas

There is a "debate" as to whether churches should close their doors on Sunday, December 25th and allow families to spend quality time at home.

Several megachurches are doing so.

There are pro's and con's to the decision. Most of the megachurches are having corporate times of worship Thursday, Friday or Saturday before Christmas Day and giving their congregations DVD's to watch that Sunday.

We are having a 10:30 A.M. worship time on Sunday morning, December 25th.

I don't know if we are doing so because of some heartfelt desire to "win a debate" but because Jesus is my best friend and it's his "birthday" and I want to celebrate it with him in a way that will draw my attention and focus entirely to him.

Can I do that at home? I suppose. It's just that there is something about coming together as a church family to worship and converse with Him.

Really, the onus is not on churches to provide a service or not, the onus is on individual believers and their families to make a corporate worship experience a priority that Sunday.

I choosing to go - how about you?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Overcoming fear

There are many things in life that we are afraid of.

We Christians, have a hard times admitting it sometimes, but it is true.

There are times when I am afraid. I’m anxious about a certain situation.

What are you afraid of?

Some Christians act like they’re not afraid of anything. Some Christians act like they’re afraid of everything. In fact, there seems to be a name for almost every kind of fear imaginable. The list below contains just a few:

Acrophobia: the fear of heights

Agoraphobia: the fear of open spaces

Arachnophobia: the fear of spiders

Claustrophobia: the fear of small, closed-in spaces

Hydrophobia: the fear of water

Mysophobia: the fear of dirt or germs

Nyctophobia: the fear of darkness

Ochlophobia: the fear of crowds

Schoolphobia: the fear of school

Triskaidekaphobia: the fear of the number 13

There is a lot to fear out there. There’s even phobiaphobia, or the fear of fear itself!

We all, as Christians, are afraid at times.

But being self-controlled means learning to control our worries and fears instead of letting them control us. That’s easier said than done, of course, but that’s what go desires for us. And that’s what he’s able to do for us.

Jesus can calm you heart and mind, just as he was able to calm the raging Sea of Galilee.

He is able to quiet our fears and relieve your worries, just as he soothed the disciple’s fears that night long ago. The psalmist knew the secret of controlling worry and fear, which is why he wrote, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you”. Psalms 56:3

That’s the secret. Let the presence of God control your fear…instead of letting your fear control you.

God has His hand on you today. When times come and you are fearful, let God’s presence be with you.

And then do it – work at it – complete it – move forward – even though you are afraid! And God will help you.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Congratulations Christie!

My daughter graduates from Grand Valley State University tonight. I am so proud of her. She has worked hard for the last five and half years to received her degree in secondary education.

I know that she is going to make a great teacher!

Way to go, Christie!

Christie is a beautiful young lady who loves God and those around her. I deeply appreciate her commitment to God, her husband and her family.

Ever since she was born, I have sensed God's hand upon her life. From being thrown into French school as a toddler, to moving around with her family until we came to Battle Creek, Christie has handled everything with grace and dignity.

I'm also thankful for her husband, Andrew. The two of them make a great pair.

May you have many more wonderful years of marriage together; and as you seek God, may He continue to extend his hand of favor upon you!

I love you, Christie! I love you Andrew!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Friendship with God

God is my friend.

Now there's an incredible statement. God is my friend.

We think of God as many things, but to me - He is my friend.

Flight 93 (I think it was 93) was the plane that went down on 911 in Pennsylvania. A report of what happened on the flight went like this:

"Passengers aboard the hijacked airplanes began to comprehend the likely termination of their flights. They would not survive. Several reached for their cell phones and quietly dialed their loved ones. If no one answered, they left recorded messages with their final words: "I love you."

The passengers could have said:

"Be kind to the neighbors."

"Cast my absentee ballot."

"don't forget the house payment."

But they focused on personal relationships.

They summed it all up by saying, "I love you."

That was crisis will do in our lives. It clarifies what is really important from the non-important.

That's the way God looks at His relationship with you and I. To God, His relationship with us is more important than anything else.


Think of it!

God invites us to come to him not only as servants and as children, but also as his friends!

Here's what I know: We make friends with God much as we make friends with other people.

We share common interest, values, spend time together, talk, listen, share experiences, have fun, eat together, share emotions, love, trust, are willing to sacrifice for one another and forgive each other.

Jesus said, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called your friends." John 15:15

My prayer today is that I develop my friendship with God.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A right understanding of humility

We talk a lot in Christian life about not being full of pride. "Pride goes before the fall," the Bible states.

That is so true.

There is such a temptation to give in to feelings of superiority and pride as we walk with God - especially after a success, or a leap in our closeness with Him.

Yet the opposite of pride is self-rejection and feelings of inferiority.

I've heard others say, "If people really, really knew me, they wouldn't love," I know that is a brother or sister in Christ who is on the road to emotional and spiritual darkness.

There is a big, big difference between self-deprecation and humility.

Humility, if you look at it right, is the opposite of self-deprecation.

One author writes, "This is true humility: not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less."

Humility is the grateful recognition that I am a child of God and that he has gifted me and that everything I have is a gift from Him.

It is, "making a right estimate" of myself as Confucius once said.

I am a child of God. I am worth something in His eyes. In Jesus Christ, I am somebody....And so are you!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Being spiritually free

You know, it's a great paradox. Being spiritually free means that I give my life totally to Jesus.

And the more I give my life to Jesus - in other words, the more I converse with Him and speak with Him and listen to Him, the more I realize that I do not have to worry about what to say or do in unexpected, difficult circumstances.

It frees me from being concerned about what others think of me or what :I: will get for what I do!

The right words and actions spontaneously come from a heart that is in total synch with God, who makes us His children and sets us free.

God speaks and acts though us.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 10: 19,20, "When you are handed over, don't worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes, because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you."

Today, I once again throw my trust into the hands of a loving God who lives in me, and by so doing I can live freely in a world that judges, evaluates and criticizes.

In Jesus is true freedom!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Being free from judging others and released to showing mercy

I have found that we spend an enormous amount of our time and energy in making up our minds about other people.

Sometimes this is done spontaneously, on the spur of the moment. We meet someone and immediately form opinions. The book "Blink" states that most of the time, those opinions are right.

Other times, we, in the midst of conflict, form opinions that can be made in a state of self-preservation. To prove that "we" are right, and that "other" person is wrong.

I would suggest to you that not a day goes by without somebody doing or saying something that brings out the need in us to form an opinion about that person.

It can become a habit in our lives. And, if out of control, it can become bondage.

We all need to be released from the heavy burden of judging others. There is freedom in letting people be who they are - an realizing that not everyone sees everything the way I see things, or feels everything the way I feel things, or think everything that I think.

Once I am free from judging, I am free then to extent mercy.

Jesus said, "Don't judge, and you won't be judged." Matthew 7:1

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The importance of blogs

I sense, that in the Kingdom of God, we have not been oriented and convinced that blogs are something we need to pay attention to and use as a tool for ministry.

If I could say it negatively, "why is it that we are so hestitant to invest ourselves into new methods and ways of sharing our faith?" Why must we wait until something "has been proven" before we use it?

Hopefully, this editorial from Mortimer B. Zuckerman (editor-in-chief of U.S. News and World) will help all us to realize the validity of blogs.

He writes, "Blogs are transforming the way Americans get information and think about important issues. It's a revolutionary change - and there's no turning back."

I completely agree.

Here's his article:

"Not so long ago, the American community used to gather in the electronic town hall provided by the three broadcast networks, CBS, NBC, and ABC. For four decades, the evening news bulletins focused our national debates--Walter Cronkite's disaffection with the Vietnam War is a well-remembered turning point--but they do so no longer. First, there came CNN, in 1980. That was followed by other 24-hour cable-news channels. Now, we're well into the age of the Internet, where news and opinion surface almost every second. The American audience is fragmented as never before, a huge cultural story with implications for our cohesion as a society.

The most dramatic, and still evolving, change is characterized by the emergence of bloggers (web-loggers). It was little noticed back in 1999 during the Kosovo war, when a website organized by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting attracted comments from ordinary citizens. One began: "Armed men wearing black masks and blue police helmets just came and said, 'You have to leave!' " That was a firsthand account of ethnic cleansing in Pristina, perhaps the most striking example of a new freedom to leapfrog the censors. Since then, blogs have proliferated from 50 in 1999 to close to something like 10 million today in just the United States, with as many as 100,000 new ones being launched every day.

The most well known are the power blogs, influential sites that attract the lion's share of page views and hits. A second group of social-network blogs focuses on certain topics or specific regions. After that, there's a virtual galaxy of obscure blogs that may get a few hits a day but occasionally light up the blogosphere when they're picked up and amplified by the mainstream press.

A "fifth estate." Given the fact that the disseminators of blogs, such as Google, have a unique protection from legal liability for what is posted, the blogs often resort to blood sport in their commentaries on politics and life, with many repeating and reporting without fact checking. (Alas, the idea that Jews plotted the 9/11 attacks began as a blog and took hold in the Muslim world as fact; in fact, it was a lie put out by Hezbollah.)

This new age of journalism is challenging the "trustee model" of journalism, where journalistic professionals served as gatekeepers, filtering the defamatory and the false. Today, a large segment of the public believes the new media are flavoring their reporting so as to tell us not so much how the world works but how the media believe it ought to work. No wonder only 44 percent of the public now say they are very, or fairly, confident of the media's accuracy.

The blogs, while fragmenting our mass audience and carrying many more inaccuracies than mainstream media, have nonetheless democratized journalism by giving citizens daily and immediate access to different opinions and, sometimes, to purveyors of truly expert knowledge.

Take the issue of whether oil drilling should take place in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Websites now provide the relevant documents and statements from governmental, corporate, and environmental bodies, along with information about costs, benefits, and risks from other specialists. Alaskans share their experience with oil drilling on the North Slope and their hopes and concerns for the state's economy and environment. The result is a public better able to make trade-offs among desired objectives and to assess a wider range of policy options.

Bloggers are emerging in a major way in other areas, such as reporting on Iraq. There is the so-called Baghdad Blogger, Salam Pax, whose online diary about life in Iraq in wartime attracts a huge readership. There is the expert commentary from Prof. Juan Cole, who provides scholarly insight into Shiite Arabs and the reaction of Sunni Arabs to the presence of U.S. troops there: He describes it as a "key recruiting tool for the resistance." There is the art historian David Nishimura, whose knowledge of antiquities enabled him to debunk the reported looting of 170,000 priceless antiques and treasures from the Iraqi National Museum: He pointed out that the actual losses, though serious, were dramatically smaller, that museum officials may have participated in the looting, and that the fierce criticism of the U.S. military was not merited.

In national politics, bloggers forced to the attention of the mainstream media an unfortunate comment then Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott made at Strom Thurmond's 100th-birthday party, converting his gaffe into a full-blown scandal. Bloggers forced Dan Rather to acknowledge that the documents used in the story about President Bush's National Guard service could not be authenticated. The list goes on.

The opinion blogs have, in effect, become a "fifth estate," a barometer of attitudes not just in the United States but in the world. Now, we must learn how to make the most of a flow of fact and opinion unimaginable just a decade ago."

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Using the talents you have

I have convinced that there is enough talent and ability in the world today to make this planet a much better place.

The problem is not, "are there enough people with the skills needed to change our work," but "are we using what we already have?"

In the movie "A Bronx Tale" the character played by Robert DeNiro tells his son, "The saddest thing in the world is wasted talent."

Too many of us are guilty of this—we live beneath our talent. We settle for accomplishing a little instead of a lot.

For example, there are people with a great story to tell—but they will not write.

And there are people with fantastic leadership skills who will not pursue opportunities to lead.

And there are people with bright business minds who will not risk self-employment.

And people blessed with musical ability who won't get in front of an audience.

What holds us back?

As a pastor, I've heard every possible excuse.

Maybe it's fear. Maybe it's laziness. Maybe it's lack of self-confidence. It's different for each person - yet the same.

Here's what I know: God is not the one who says, "Keep your talent to yourself. After all, you're just an average person; what makes you think you can succeed? What makes you think you be a leader?"

God's method has always been to use ordinary people to do extraordinary things. H

He used the son of a slave to lead God's people to freedom;

he used a shepherd boy to defeat a powerful giant;

he used a man in exile to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

And he can use you. Don't live beneath the level of your talent.

Ask yourself this week: "What am I good at doing that I am not doing? What talent have I not yet put to use?"

Look for opportunities to do the things you do well. Put your skills to work.

Paul said...

God has given each of the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you. If you gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. (Romans 12:6-8)

Monday, November 28, 2005

Expect today!

God always meets us at our level of expectation.

So true.

The Bible tells us in Job 14:7-9, "For there is hope for a tree, when it is cut down, that it will sport again, and its shoots will not fail. Though its roots grow old in the ground, and its stump dies in the dry soil, at the scent of water it will flourish and put forth sprigs like a plant."

Even though you might feel that all is lost - it's a season in your life - and things will get better.

As one author has written, "you're going to sing again. You're going to dance again. You are going to live. You're going to climb out of the debris and crow. By the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, you're going to get busy living'!"

Let me give you a quote.

"Deep within you there is a Spirit of faith, just waiting to be resurrected. Get to him (God)! Whatever it takes, touch Him. Crawl if you have to, but get to Him."

As you touch God, expect good things to happen!

Expect a renewal of God's Spirit in your life this week.

Expect God's glory to come to and upon you.

Expect God's favor.

Expect favor from those in authority over you.

Expect new joy to rise up in your spirit.

Expect God to meet your needs.

Expect angels to visit you (now you've gone off the deep, end George!)!

Expect to be released from bondages.

Expect that project to be done.

Expect that relationship to come back into harmony.

Expect your friends to start a relationship with God.

Expect your enemies to fall.

Expect doors to open that have been shut.

Expect, expect, expect!

This week is a "new day" for you!

"Father, thank you for the good things that are going to happen this week. We expect you to move in a powerful way!"

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

What I am thankful for

I am thankful for my wife - of nearly 25 years. I love her with all of my heart.

I am thankful for my children - I love them unconditionally.

I am thankful for my health - which I never take for granted.

I am thankful for my home - which provides a place of warmth and happiness.

I am thankful for my friends - with whom I can "be myself."

I am thankful for my parents - who are always there with a listening ear.

I am thankful for the leadership of our church - godly people who serve with compassionate hearts.

I am thankful for changed lives - which I see on a weekly basis.

And...I am thankful for God. Jesus - without whom I could do nothing.

May you have a wonderful thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Holiday stress

It's always been ironic to me that the "holidays" can be one of the most stressful times of the year.

From now, until January 1st, there are activities after activities after activites.

I found this article today from the Mayo Clinic that might be of help to all of us - and then I added a few thoughts at the end.

"For some people, the holidays bring unwelcome guests — stress and depression. And it's no wonder. In an effort to pull off a perfect Hallmark holiday, you might find yourself facing a dizzying array of demands — work, parties, shopping, baking, cleaning, caring for kids on school break or elderly parents, and scores of other chores. So much for peace and joy, right?

Actually, with some practical tips, you can minimize the stress and depression that often accompany the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would.

The trigger points of holiday stress

Holiday stress and depression are often the result of three main trigger points. Understanding these trigger points can help you plan ahead on how to accommodate them.

Here are the three issues that commonly trigger holiday stress or depression:

Relationships. Relationships can cause turmoil, conflict or stress at any time. But tensions are often heightened during the holidays. Family misunderstandings and conflict can intensify — especially if you're all thrust together for several days. Conflicts are bound to arise with so many needs and interests to accommodate. On the other hand, if you're facing the holidays without a loved one, you may find yourself especially lonely or sad.

Finances. Like your relationships, your financial situation can cause stress at any time of the year. Overspending during the holidays on gifts, travel, food and entertainment can increase stress as you try to make ends meet while ensuring that everyone on your shopping list is happy.

Physical demands. The strain of shopping, attending social gatherings and preparing holiday meals can wipe you out. Feeling exhausted can increase your stress, creating a vicious cycle. Exercise and sleep — good antidotes for stress and fatigue — may take a back seat to chores and errands. High demands, stress, lack of exercise, and overindulgence in food and drink — these are the ingredients for holiday illness.

12 pre-emptive strategies for holiday stress.

When stress is at its peak, it's hard to stop and regroup. Take steps to help prevent normal holiday depression from progressing into chronic depression. Try these tips:

Acknowledge your feelings. If a loved one has recently died or you aren't near loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. It's OK now and then to take time just to cry or express your feelings. You don't have to force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.

Seek support. If you feel isolated or down, seek out family members and friends, or community, religious or social services. They can offer support and companionship. Consider volunteering at a community or religious function. Getting involved and helping others can lift your spirits and broaden your social circle. Also, enlist support for organizing holiday gatherings, as well as meal preparation and cleanup. You don't have to go it alone. Don't be a martyr.

Be realistic. As families change and grow, traditions often change as well. Hold on to those you can, if you want to. But understand that in some cases that may no longer be possible. Perhaps your entire extended family can't gather together at your house. Instead, find new ways to celebrate together from afar, such as sharing pictures, e-mails or videotapes.

Set differences aside. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. With stress and activity levels high, the holidays might not be conducive to making quality time for relationships. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are, they're feeling the effects of holiday stress, too.

Stick to a budget. Before you go shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend on gifts and other items. Then be sure to stick to your budget. If you don't, you could feel anxious and tense for months afterward as you struggle to pay the bills. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Donate to a charity in someone's name, give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange.

Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make one big food-shopping trip. That'll help prevent a last-minute scramble to buy forgotten ingredients — and you'll have time to make another pie if the first one's a flop. Allow extra time for travel so that delays won't worsen your stress.

Learn to say no. Believe it or not, people will understand if you can't do certain projects or activities. If you say yes only to what you really want to do, you'll avoid feeling resentful and overwhelmed. If it's really not possible to say no to something — your boss asks you to work overtime — try to remove something from your agenda to make up for the lost time.

Don't abandon healthy habits. Don't let the holidays become a dietary free-for-all. Some indulgence is OK, but overindulgence may add to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and schedule time for physical activity.

Take a breather. While you may not have time every day for a silent night, make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Steal away to a quiet place, even if it's the bathroom, for a few moments of solitude. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that clears your mind, slows your breathing and restores your calm.

Rethink resolutions. Resolutions can set you up for failure if they're unrealistic. Don't resolve to change your whole life to make up for past excess. Instead, try to return to basic, healthy lifestyle routines. Set smaller, more specific goals with a reasonable time frame. Choose resolutions that help you feel valuable and provide more than only fleeting moments of happiness.

Forget about perfection. Holiday TV specials are filled with happy endings. But in real life, people don't usually resolve problems within an hour or two. Something always comes up. You may get stuck late at the office and miss your daughter's school play, your sister may dredge up an old argument, you may forget to put nuts in the cake, and your mother may criticize how you and your partner are raising the kids. All in the same day. Expect and accept imperfections.

Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for several weeks, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. You may have depression.

Have it both ways

Remember, one key to minimizing holiday stress and depression is knowing that the holidays can trigger stress and depression. Accept that things aren't always going to go as planned. Then take active steps to manage stress and depression during the holidays. You may actually enjoy the holidays this year more than you thought you could."

Now then, let me add one more. Spend time with Jesus. Bask in his presence. Have a conversation with God - on a daily basis. Jesus is the reason for the season!

Monday, November 21, 2005

The devil - can he read my mind?

I'm often asked - can the devil read my mind? I think not. It's hard to be absolutely certain. Here's what I do know. I know that Satan has more power than any of the other fallen angels in God's realm and certainly more power than you and I - without God in our lives.

At the same time, Satan is not divine; he is not God, he does not have divine powers or abilities.

He is a created being with limitations that are found with being part of God's creation. Satan is an angel.

Angels are more powerful than people, but less powerful than God (I'm thankful for that!)

Here's what I do know for sure: God can read my mind. He knows my thoughts, even before I think them. The bible says in Psalms 139:4, "There is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, you know it altogether."

We sometimes jump to the conclusion that since God can read our minds and God is a supernatural being, than Satan's powers must be equal to God's

Not true.

Satan and his minions, however, study us and know our tendencies and our weaknesses. They know what will appeal to us.

So what do you think? Can Satan read our minds or not?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

We all need boundaries

We talked about boundaries in our marriage class last night.

Gary Smalley writes, "healthy boundaries can help you to protect yourself from being mistreated by other people - your marriage partner, your children, and your friends. They also can protect your own family from others."

You know it's time to build your own fence when you are angry, he writes. When you feel threatened or fearful.

You want to rise up and says, "Hey, I'm an individual. My feelings are important! I'm a person! I want to build my fence."

Smalley writes, "when you build that fence, you will find that these negative emotions begin to drop off."

We all need boundaries. We all need to spend our time building our own fences and letting people know where we being and where we end.

Years ago, we had an older man in the church, who for a season, called me at 7:30 A.M. every morning, as I was getting ready to go to work.

Finally, after a time of this, I had to share with him, "Thou shalt not call me at 7:30 A.M. every morning."


What are your boundaries today?

Debbie and I have a phrase that we use with one another - sometimes we get "peopled-out" where we desire to spend the evening together at home - alone. Those feelings bring us to the point of saying, "we need to put our boundaries up." "We're getting maxed out."

That's hard, especially for care-givers. It can lead to feelings of guilt. But it is necessary for a fulfilling life long ministry.

Remember - boundaries aren't used to necessarily keep people out - but to keep your emotional balance within.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Who is God? Questions

Who is God?

Who is God to you?

Sometimes we are guilty of worshipping a God of our own making.

Does God exist?

Maybe you wonder if God even exists.

Did He make our planet?

The universe?

If he did, does he still care about what is going on?

Let's suppose that you do believe in God.

Do you want to get to know him better?

His nature, his personality?

For some people God is a mystery - someone to find on a sheet of paper like "Waldo."

Do you have a "Waldo God"?

For others God is a killjoy. He'e there to prevent us from having a good time.

If we get close to God, we're afraid we will have to give up all our freedom.

Let me say something that we all can agree on: There are things about God we will never figure out. And when you really think about it - it makes sense!

However, there are things about God which we can know. His ablity to create an incredible universe.

Our own earthly bodies. Wonderful creations!

I would suggest to you that God is a very real spirit Being who has always been and will always be. He is personal. He is involved in our world. He desires to have a conversation with us.

All we have to do is stop, look and listen. Why not?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Do I stay or go?

We all reach points in our lives where we ask ourselves - do I stay or do I go?

Perhaps you are at that point today.

Listen to this story:

"As the persecution of Jews increased during World War II, Austrian psychologist Victor Frankl had the opportunity to go to America and avoid the imminent threat of suffering. His parents were thrilled for him, but he struggled with the question: Should I leave my parents behind in Gestapo-controlled Austria? He asked God to give him a hint from heaven.

One day Victor's father, who knew nothing of his son's inner turmoil, brought him a piece of marble taken from a bombed out synagogue. It contained a small bit of writing that Victor recognized as being from the fourth commandment: Honor your father and mother.

This was the hint he had been looking for; Frankl decided to stayed. The decision was not without a price; he and his family were arrested and imprisoned. His parents died in concentration camps, and he himself spent years in Auschwitz. But he survived, and as a result he was able to provide strength and encouragement to millions through his writings—most notably his book "Man's Search for Meaning."

During this time a German theologian named Dietrich Bonhoeffer had the opportunity to take a teaching post in America. He, too, struggled with the decision. Ultimately he declined the offer, choosing to stay in Germany because he felt an obligation to be with his own countrymen during the time of national crisis. Bonhoeffer was eventually arrested and sent to a concentration camp, where he died shortly before the war ended.

Both men had the opportunity to leave; both made the decision to stay—and both paid a price for their choice."

Powerful stories of courage and perseverance.

Sometimes our best decision is to stay. Greener pastures may be calling us elsewhere, but our true calling is right where we are. Staying doesn't often result in glory and honor.

In fact, it's more likely to result in suffering and hardship. And, yet, it is in choosing to stay that we most often do the most good.

The Apostle Paul wrote...

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)

The race marked out for us.

As I said at the beginning, many of us struggle with the question: How do I know whether it's time to stay or time to go? How do I know if this is the race "marked out" for me?

The answer to that question can often be found in the answer to another: Are you running to avoid pain, or running to gain the prize?

If your reason for wanting to go is simply to avoid something unpleasant, that might be a hint that God is calling you to stay. In the race marked out for you, there will be times when you must take a bold step of faith into the unknown. And there will be times when you must take an even bolder step of faith into the known. And defiance of the call to the face of certain struggle.

Are you struggling with a stay-or-go decision? Ask yourself: which takes me closer to the prize?

If you need a hint from heaven, God will provide one; just be ready to take an obedient next step in the race marked out for you.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The greatness of God

Sometimes I really have a hard time grasping the greatness and even the complete reality of God. Am I the only one - don't think so.

We all have a tendancy to try to refine God, put him in a box, believe in a God of our own making. And just about the time we think we have Him all figured out - bam, something happens that causes us to shake our head and say, "what in the world?" (kind of like my golf game.

But that's not the right question. The better question is, "what in heaven?"

Psalms 139 states:
"For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
1 O Lord, you have searched me
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O Lord.
5 You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths,a you are
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious tob me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
I am still with you.
19 If only you would slay the wicked, O God!
Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord,
and abhor those who rise up against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting

God is desiring to reveal himself to us!

I read this article today from CNN which shows the awesomeness of God:

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Chinese scientists said on Wednesday they had gathered evidence that shows a giant object in the center of our galaxy is a super-massive black hole.

Zhi-Qiang Shen and researchers at the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory captured radio waves emitted just beyond the edge of the mysterious object, known as Sagittarius A, with a system of 10 radio telescopes spread across the United States.

In a report in the science journal Nature they said it "provides strong evidence that Sgr A is a super-massive black hole."

The celestial objects that suck in everything around them including light are among the most mysterious objects in the universe. They are formed when matter from a dying star collapses under its own gravity.

Black holes have been described as the ultimate victory over gravity because of their ability to suck in stars and other galactic features.

Scientists have long suspected the presence of a black hole in the center of the Galaxy. Astronomers believe it is four million times more massive than our Sun.

The research reported in Nature suggests the black hole is as wide as the radius of the Earth's orbit.

"These observations provide strong evidence that Sgr A is indeed a black hole, and afford a glimpse of the behavior of the matter that is about to flow into it," said Christopher Reynolds, of the University of Maryland in the United States, in a commentary in the journal.

He described the findings as a further step towards capturing an image of the shadow around the edge of a black hole, which would be a classic test of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity.

The theory predicts that massive bodies -- planets, stars or black holes -- actually twist time and space around as they spin.

God is great! God is awesome!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Don't let your dreams die

Don't let your dreams die.

All of us have dreams. Goals. A vision of the future.

Sometimes there is a real temptation to let our dreams die.

Sometimes things get do disoriented that we are tempted to let go of the direction that we have in our lives.

When that happens, what can we do?

Go back to the basics.


Spend time in God's presence.

Be with supportive friends.

Think positive thoughts.

Understand that there is a season for everything.

Realize that in all things, God is bringing something good out of it.

Problems and trials do not mean that the dream is not correct.

Problems and people can detour us from our dreams.

We must pick our spots. George Patton said, "Don't fight a battle if you don't gain anything by winning." I like that.

Don't let your dreams die! Persevere! Be bold! Don't quit!

Don't let your dreams die!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

True greatness is hidden

I've noticed an increasing intensity in newspapers, magazines and on television to promote fame and notoriety in our society. We are continually pounded by the message: what really counts in life is to have your name in "lights", your "fifteen minutes of fame", the admiration of our culture, to be known, praised in whatever field we are in.

On the cover of Time magazine this week is the headline:

Ambition: Why Some People Are Most Likely To Succeed. It continues: A fire in the belly doesn't light itself. Does the spark of ambition lie in genes, family, culture--or even in your own hands? Science has answers.

Well, that may or may not be true, but I do know that the Bible has THE answer. Ambition is not wrong. It's great to want to succeed, do the best we can, and obtain our goals in life.

Jesus himself said, "I didn't come to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many."

The way to the top is by going to the bottom.

I would suggest to you that real greatness is often hidden in the humble, simple, and unobtrusive acts of life.

I would suggest that to be truly great means that we have a correct understanding of ourselves. We must have a strong self-confidence combined with deep humility.

Most of the truly great things that are done in our society are done by those who had no need for the limelight.

To me, our small groups leaders are great.

Those who participate in the tasks of our church family without notice are great.

Reaching out to others in need is a sign of greatness.

I am surrounded by great people!

May we all be great today, by living with great patience, perseverance, and love.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

making decisions

Making decisions is such an integral part of our lives. We are the product of our decisions.

Listen to the story of one author:

"One night at Jr. Hi Church Camp we had a big bonfire. The next day, during free time, a friend and I walked past the place where the bonfire had been held. It was now a big pile of fluffy, soft, gray ashes.

"Wouldn't it be fun to jump in the middle of that pile?" my friend asked. Being uncharacteristically cautious, I said, "Won't we get in trouble? Won't we get dirty? Won't we get caught?" He said, "Naaa! We'll jump in the pool afterwards and who'll know the difference?" I agreed and began taking off my shoes. He was faster than me, and raced barefoot into the pile.

What couldn't be seen underneath the top layer of gray ash were the embers still burning from the night before. They couldn't be seen, but they could be felt.

My friend, never having been to a Tony Robbins seminar, wasn't prepared for the effect the red hot coals would have on his tender feet. He started yelling and jumping up and down, trying to get out of the ashes as fast he could, (dispelling, in the process, the myth that Baptists don't dance).

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the nurse's station. Even though I got through the experience unscathed, I stuck around for moral support. The question we were asked again and again was, "What possessed you to jump into a pile of burning embers?" The only answer we could come up with was something along the lines of "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

The truth, of course, was that we didn't think about what we were doing. We made an impulsive, split-second decision without considering the consequences."

Good stuff.

We do a lot of things in life that seem like a good idea at the time. Maybe it appears to be the easiest thing to do, or the most exciting thing to do, or the most expedient thing to do, but we make these spur-of-the-moment decisions without thinking them through, and inevitably, we end up getting burned.

Solomon warned of the consequences of impulsive decisions when he said...
Can a man scoop fire into his lap without being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without being scorched? (Proverbs 6:27-28)

Solomon was speaking specifically about sexual sin, but the principle applies to every foolish choice we make. A person can't make emotional, impulsive decisions based solely upon surface-level appearances without getting burned.

Maybe this is where you find yourself right now. Maybe you've gotten into a relationship that has disaster written all over it. Maybe you've taken a job that is forcing you to compromise your faith. Maybe you're pursuing dreams that can only turn into nightmares. And you're in this position because you took a running leap before thinking things through.

If that is the case, there are only two things you can do.

One, ask God to help you get out of the fire as fast as possible before you get burned any further.

Two, decide quickly never to decide quickly again. Take your time before making a decision.

The best decisions I've made are the ones that I've made slowly, prayerfully, and with much advice. It seems the longer it takes me to make a major decision, the more likely I am to discover God's will in the matter.

I quote again:

"I wish I could say my friend's firewalk taught me a lesson about impulsive decisions. However, if you looked at the bottom of my feet, you would see a few scars.

And though I've learned that God is merciful enough to pull us out of the fire of dumb decisions, I've also learned that life works much better when we allow him to direct our steps away from the burning coals."

Monday, November 07, 2005

Helping the one

I was driving to work this morning and saw a man digging in the garbage at the shell station at the corner of Columbia and Capital.

All kinds of thoughts began to run through my mind. I had feelings of sympathy and guilt. I began to feel horrible about whining in my own mind about some of my own circumstances.

Yesterday I read that we have around 5% of the world's population in America, but we use 50% of the world's resources.

How should we feel about that?

Our missions teams who come back from overseas inevitably say, "we are so blessed here in America, the world doesn't have much."

And that is very, very true.

Here's the conclusion I have come to: I am not to feel guilty for what I DO have, but I am to be responsible for what others do NOT have.

We can't on our own help everybody.

So what do we do?

We help the one.

I can't help everybody, but I can help one.

Every day, I can seek out one person that I might be able to help.

Maybe it's by buying them some milk at the store.

Maybe it's by saying a prayer.

Maybe it's by giving to a charity of my choice.

Maybe it's by inviting someone to church.

Maybe it's by listening.

The key is not to verbalize that the world needs help and do nothing. But to verbalize that the world needs help and do something, anything, at least once a day.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Grandparenting 101

Grandparents can and should play a vital role in the lives of their grandchildren.

I know of some parents who are not serving God, but their parents are having a profound godly influence on their grandchildren.

I just talked to my grandma on the phone. Grandpa's not hearing too well, Grandma's memory is fading. She's still positive, still upbeat, and still full of the Lord.

I love my Grandma. I love my Grandpa.

I found this article that I thought I would share with all of your grandparents. Something to think about.

It's entitled, "The Influence of Grandparents and Stepgrandparents on Grandchildren"


Over the past 20 years, increased attention has been given to the importance of grandparenthood. This newfound emphasis on grandparenthood and stepgrandparenthood is a reflection of the increased life span; adults are living longer and four- and five-generation families are more common. It's also a reflection of the importance of grandparents to grandchildren.


Grandparent Influence

Grandparents and stepgrandparents influence their grandchildren both directly and indirectly. Direct influences come from face-to-face interaction, and indirect influences are realized through a third party. Consider the phrase, "It's important to be there for your grandchildren." Being there is a concept that can mean physically being present (direct) or emotionally being present (indirect).

When you make phone calls, attend concerts together or take them places, you are directly influencing your grandchildren. When your grandchildren have been confronted with a situation and think about you, knowing you will be available to support them and that you're on their side, you are indirectly influencing them by emotionally being there. You are a role model to your grandchildren.

It's interesting to note the variety of terms used to refer to the many roles grandparents or stepgrandparents play. For example:

Stress buffer
Roots/family historian

One national survey of grandparents reported that a variety of activities were engaged in with grandchildren such as:

Joking and kidding
Giving money
Talking about growing up
Giving advice
Discussing problems
Going to church/synagogue
Providing discipline
Taking a day trip
Teaching a skill or game
Watching TV together
Talking about parent/child disagreements

Several writers have emphasized that grandparents are very important to grandchildren. They are described as "significant others who have a great deal to do with one's view of life." The intergenerational contact reflects a high value for family connection. Grandchildren exposed to such contact are less fearful of old age and the elderly. They feel more connected to their families.

A North Dakota study found that stepgrand-children tend to have less contact with their stepgrandparents and consider this relationship less important than grandchildren do with grandparents. However, the children surveyed also indicated a desire for more contact with stepgrandparents. Being a stepgrandparent can be more challenging than being a grandparent because the role is less clear. As more stepfamilies are formed, more attention will be given to stepgrandparenting, and the same influences or benefits found for grandparents will no doubt be found to be as important for stepgrandparents.


Making a Memory
Grandparents and stepgrandparents can make a lasting story of their lives for their grandchildren. These life stories grow in value to grandchildren as they grow older.

To capture one's life story, videotape significant events, people and places for present and future generations. Even if you're not handy with a video camera, your family will appreciate the commentary and memories shared as you visit points from your past and present.

It's easiest to do this project as a team, with one person taping and the other providing commentary and interviews. This also allows you to "star" in your own movie. So, select a partner and begin.

First, rent, lease, borrow or purchase a video camera. Next, buy some inexpensive videotapes and practice to get used to the machine and what it can and cannot do. When you feel comfortable with the camera, purchase some high-grade videotapes to use as your master copies for future duplicating.

Next, plan on paper who, what, when and where you will be taping.

Some ideas to consider may include:


Interview parents, siblings, children, cousins and others. Tell some favorite family tales; describe family holidays, sad occasions or any other memorable events.
Show where your family lived. Take a tour of the house, if possible. Tell how it looked when you were growing up, the color of your room, who you shared the room with.
Go to the cemetery and walk through the family plot. Death is a part of life. Were or are there family rituals related to caring for the family graves?
What's your ethnic heritage? Are there things you'd like to share regarding ethnic customs? What does your name mean in your native language? Where did your ancestors come from? When did they emigrate to this country? How did they arrive? How old were they? Does anyone keep in touch with family from the "old country?" What are some of the special stories your family has passed down to each generation?
Where did you go to school? Tour the building and grounds, if possible.
Who were your best friends during your school years? Interview them and tell of the things you used to do together.
Did you have favorite teachers? Interview them, if possible. If not, tell why you enjoyed them or their classes so much.
What extracurricular activities did you participate in? Do you have any news clippings, uniforms or awards to show for these? How about team photos?
Did you go to college or a technical school? If so, where and when? What did you study? What were the highlights of these years?
Do you have a special story to tell about your journey of faith?
What aspects of your religion/spirituality are most important to you and why?
Neighborhood and Friends
Who lived next door, down the road or on your block? Who did you know well and spend time with? Go visit them, and record reminiscing about the special things you used to do together. Bring out the photos, if possible.
Take a drive through the neighborhood, videotaping the countryside and places that had special meaning as you were growing up. These might include the local grocery store where you bought "penny candy," the softball diamond, places you used to go for walks and where you went to church.
Who were your friends throughout the years, and what qualities do you think make lifetime friends?
How did you meet your spouse? How long did you court/date before you got married? Where and how did the proposal happen?
Where were you married? Tour the church/courthouse/chapel, if possible. Describe the ceremony and your wedding day. Who were your attendants? What colors were used? What Scripture or music did you select?
Talk about your marriage if you feel comfortable. What makes your partner special? What traits do you admire most? Any interesting or fun stories to share?
Tell about the jobs you've had throughout your life, including homemaking. Tour where you worked last or are still employed. What were some of the greatest challenges in your work? What were you paid on your first job?
Describe the volunteer work you've done over the years. These may have been in church, at school or as an elected official. What are the fondest memories of your volunteer work? What are the benefits of volunteering?
The sky's the limit! Talk about hopes, dreams, regrets. Tell your favorite jokes. Visit about your favorite hobbies; show the finished products.
Once you've completed the taping, edit if necessary, and make copies for your children and grandchildren. Your history is captured for present and future generations to enjoy."

Grandparents, leave a legacy of godly grandchildren! And may the Holy Spirit help you this day!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Living by the spirit

Last Sunday night, we had several teenagers and adults, "baptized in the Holy Spirit." How do you know this? They begin to speak in another language that was given to them by God. It's the first, initial, physical sign.

The bible talks about a second experience that we can have with God, after we start a relationship with him.

It's an experience of God's power, but it is also an experience of God's presence, where we are touched by God.

When I start my relationship with God - His spirit comes into my life. Let's use a metaphor - he comes into my living room. To think that God's spirit lives in me us just awesome and incredible!

When I am filled with the Spirit (which is a synonym of being baptized in the Holy Spirit) the Holy Spirit not only is in my living room, but goes into my bedroom, my bathroom, the basement, every area of my house.

I do not need this experience to start a relationship with God.
I do not need this experience to arrive in heaven and have eternal life.

I do need this experience to live the Christian life to it's fullest.

Being filled with the spirit helps me fight my tendency to sin in my life.

It's like being at the fair, and playing the game where there are several popping objects in front of you and your challenge it to see how many of them you can bop down in the time allowed. Things just keep popping up.

We fight the "flesh" on a daily basis. Somedays are more difficult than others, but each day we need to walk in the spirit.

What a wonderful tool God has given us to live for him!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Laughter - good medicine for what ails you

Laughter is good medicine for the soul.

That is so true.

Bob Hope once said, "laughter is an instant vacation."

From time to time we need to throw back our heads and laugh from our inner being. Don't sweat the small stuff and everything is small stuff kind of thing.

The old axiom, "Laughter is the best medicine," holds true when it comes to protecting your heart, according to a study conducted by the University of Maryland in Baltimore. Dr. Michael Miller, who conducted the study, says laughter releases chemicals into the blood stream that relax the blood vessels. In addition, hearty laughter reduces blood pressure and heart rate.

Miller, who is the director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University, interviewed 150 patients who had suffered heart troubles and 150 who had not. Each patient was asked questions to measure their response in typical day-to-day situations. The results showed that individuals with heart problems were 40 percent less likely to respond with laughter.

Laughter is a language is everyone understands.

One author writes, "Crystal, our 5-year-old daughter, recently met an Amish girl her age. Within a few minutes they were off, hand-in-hand, to play. I caught glimpses of them chattering and giggling. Even though Sylvia, the Amish girl, spoke only a Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, she and Crystal got along well.

Later I asked Crystal, "Could you understand anything Sylvia said to you?"

"No," she replied.

"But you played so nicely together. How?"

"Oh, Mommy, we understood each other's giggles."

Listen to this poem celebrating laughter by Crystal, our 5-year-old daughter, recently met an Amish girl her age. Within a few minutes they were off, hand-in-hand, to play. I caught glimpses of them chattering and giggling. Even though Sylvia, the Amish girl, spoke only a Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, she and Crystal got along well.

Later I asked Crystal, "Could you understand anything Sylvia said to you?"

"No," she replied.

"But you played so nicely together. How?"

"Oh, Mommy, we understood each other's giggles."

Listen to this poem that celebrates laughter:

"Let's celebrate Easter with the rite of laughter.
Christ died and rose and lives.
Laugh like a woman who holds her first baby.
Our enemy death will soon be destroyed.
Laugh like a man who finds he doesn't have cancer, or he does, but now there's a cure.
Christ opened wide the door of heaven.
Laugh like children at Disneyland's gates.
This world is owned by God, and he'll return to rule.
Laugh like a man who walks away uninjured from a wreck in which his car was totaled.
Laugh as if all the people in the whole world were invited to a picnic and then invite them."

May you have a good laugh today and celebrate life!

Monday, October 31, 2005

What, in hell?

I don't like to talk about hell. I don't like to talk with other people about hell. It is very difficult for me to speak on the subject as a pastor.

Yet it is necessary. I believe in heaven. I believe in hell. I believe in an afterlife. There must be something beyond what we are currently experiencing.

This cannot be all there is.

Did you know that Jesus speaks more of hell than he does of heaven? And that almost everything we know about hell in the New Covenant comes from the lips of Jesus?

Jesus found the necessity to speak of hell.

If I saw a house on fire down the street from my home, wouldn't I have the moral and ethical responsibility to run down there and yell as loud as I could that "you have a fire in your house!" "Be warned"!

Hell is a real, literal place. But what makes hell so horrible is not just what we read about in the Bible, but that hell is a place where the is an ABSENCE of the presence of God.

Right now the only thing that is keeping this world from being worse off than it is, is the presence of God and the presence of His church.

I want to avoid hell. I want to live in heaven.

How can I make heaven?

I must acknowledge that there is a gap between God and myself.

I must know that the only way to bridge that gap is by starting a relationship with God.

I must then come to the point where I understand that the way to start a relationship with God is through Jesus Christ, by admitting that I have mistakes and failures in my life, and that when I ask Jesus to forgive those failures, and ask him to reside in my life, my relationship with God is secure.

I encourage you to do that today, if you haven't already. But don't do it just to avoid hell. Do it to start a little bit of heaven in your life today.

Come to Jesus - and start anew and afresh.

With much love.....

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Doing the right thing

My dad once told me, "you can never go wrong doing the right thing."

The right thing is not always easy.

The right thing is not always popular.

The right thing doesn't always seem justified.

But it is the right thing.

I read this story recently:

"Over the last couple of weeks we've all heard the story of POW Jessica Lynch's rescue in an Iraqi hospital. Last week we learned a little more about how it took place.

An Iraqi lawyer told U.S. forces where to find her. He made the decision to assist in her rescue after seeing her slapped in the face by a guard—a sight that, in his words, "cut my heart."

He and his wife, who works at the hospital, spent the next few days gathering information and making hand-drawn maps of the building's layout, giving the information to U.S. intelligence officers.

Why did he do it? He said he simply couldn't watch the mistreatment of a fellow human being without taking action. Even though it could have cost him his life, he made Jessica's rescue possible.

This young Iraqi lawyer has been an inspiration to American troops—and he's an example for us all to follow."

There will be times when you are faced with the prospect of doing something risky--but you know it's right thing to do. Maybe defending someone who can't defend themselves; maybe speaking the truth when the truth is not welcome; maybe putting your life on the line for a complete stranger. Sometimes we have to take risks—both big and small—in order to what is right.

It takes what we have seen in this Iraqi civilian: courage and love. I don't know what his religious beliefs are, but I know in this instance he lived out the words of Paul...

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love. (1 Corinthians 16:13-14) q

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Do it anyway

There's a great little box by Kent M. Keith, entitled, "Do it anyway." It's a self-described handbook for finding personal meaning and deep happiness in a crazy world.

Excellent stuff.

The book contains 10 paradoxes of life. What is a paradox? A paradox is something that seems contradictory or against common sense, but turns out to be true.

It talks about the principle (which Jesus also teaches) that personal meaning and deep happiness don't depend on the external factors that you can't control. They depend on your inner life, the part of your life that you CAN control. He writes, "the Paradoxical Commandments are bout loving people, helping people, and doing what is right and good and true. That's where you can find personal meaning and deep happiness, even when the world around you is difficult."

Here are the paradoxical commandments with an actions checklist:

1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.

Action step: Which illogical, unreasonable or self-centered people am I going to love anyway?

2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.

Action step: What good things am I going to do, even though people will accuse me of selfish ulterior motives?

3. If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.

Action step: In what ways am I going to be successful, even though I know I will win false friends and true enemies?

4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.

Action step: What good things am I committed to doing, even though they will be forgotten tomorrow?

5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.

Action step: With whom, and about what, am I going to be honest, even though it will make me vulnerable?

6. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.

Action step: What big idea am I going to pursue, even though it will be shot down by small men and women?

7. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

Actions step: Which underdogs am I going to fight for?

8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.

Action step: What am I going to build, even though it may be destroyed overnight?

9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.

Action step: Who am I going to help, even though they may attack me?

10. Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.

Action step: Am I committed to always giving the world my best, even if I get kicked in the teeth?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Worship and commerce - a good mix?

I read and interesting article by Damien Cave in the New York Times yesterday. The title of the article is "How Breweth Java With Jesus?"

If you get a chance, read the article below, and tell me what you think. How far should we go in "marketing" the gospel. Are their any boundaries? Should, there be any boundaries? Does the ends justify the means?

The author closes out his article by asking, "in any case, if religion is good for Starbucks, is Starbucks good for religion? Being associated with a $5 soy mocha latte may spread the word, but at what cost to the image of a heartfelt faith?

What do you think?

Here's the article:

"STARBUCKS coffee cups will soon be emblazoned with a religious quotation from Rick Warren, the best-selling author and pastor, which includes the line, "You were made by God and for God, and until you understand that, life will never make sense."

Meanwhile, hipster havens like Urban Outfitters have made a mint selling T-shirts declaring "Jesus Is My Homeboy." Alaska Airlines distributes cards quoting Bible verses, and at least 100 cities now have phone directories for Christian businesses.

Clearly, business owners have sensed a market opportunity. The question is whether it's a mutually beneficial relationship.

"The way in which religion allows itself to be reshaped by the larger culture, including markets, allows it to prosper and do well, but it also clearly changes its core values," said Charles Ess, a professor of religion at Drury University in Springfield, Mo. "The oldest Christians sold all their goods and shared them in common. They didn't shop and launch marketing campaigns."

Then again, Christianity seems to have done quite well by mixing worship and commerce. "Religion is like yeast in dough," said Michael Novak, a theologian at the American Enterprise Institute. "It's in every part of life, so for it to show up everywhere is only natural - in commerce, politics, sports, labor unions and so on and so forth."

Not that the intermingling of faith and commerce is anything new. Christians have always used all available means and venues to spread the gospel.

"Jesus taught in the temple and the marketplace," Mr. Warren, the author of the blockbuster "The Purpose Driven Life," said in an interview.

When those with political power signed on, the intermingling of faith and commerce became official. The Roman emperor Constantine I may have started it all by converting to Christianity in the early fourth century. His epiphany led to the official sanctioning of the religion, transforming Christians from a persecuted minority to an honored elite. Overt expression of faith became a tool for getting ahead.

"If the empire is Christian and you're seeking power or success, well, you join the church," Professor Ess said. "Once it becomes a mainstream tradition, people join for all kinds of reasons."

"Since that time," he added, "the Christian church has been fairly savvy about the mix of power and faith."

Western history is rich with examples of the church-commerce concoction. In the 1800's, the image of Pope Leo XIII appeared on posters for Vin Mariani, a wine with cocaine that was a precursor to Coca-Cola. The pope honored the drink with a medal to show his appreciation for its effervescence.

In the England of the Industrial Revolution, Methodism and Wedgwood pottery spread from the same kiln. John Wesley and Josiah Wedgwood were friends and fellow Christians who joined forces in what might be described as cross-platform marketing.

"Wedgwood built its global pottery industry by selling little statuettes of John Wesley and the other superstar preachers of the day," said Philip Jenkins author of "The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity." "British capitalism was built on religious marketing - well, maybe."

In the early days of the United States, businesses, for the most part, did not use religion to sell products. They lacked the technology for mass production, and the Puritan influence helped forge an opposition to showiness or material embellishment.

And according to Robert W. Fogel, a Nobel-winning economist at the University of Chicago, the public largely assumed that prominent businessmen were devout. Many were educated in universities that focused on theology. Their products did not reflect their beliefs because their lives did.

"John D. Rockefeller is a classic example," said Mr. Fogel, author of "The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism." "All of his life, he gave 10 percent of his income to the Baptist Church."

From World War I to the 1950's, the nation became more secular, Mr. Fogel said, while the business of advertising and mass production rose. The advertisers sought to woo everyone, regardless of creed, and so avoided Christian themes.

In parts of the country, however, there was still a feeling that a business owner ought to be a devout Christian, and those who were not, like Jewish executives in Hollywood, often felt pressure to make a public show of addressing that expectation.

"That's why films in the 1940's show all Catholic priests as supermen," Mr. Jenkins said. "That may be the best example of intimidation, which of course only works when the assumption is that some businessmen are not good Christians. The more people assume that business is secular humanist liberal - e.g., by giving gay partner benefits - the more they may feel a need to reconcile 'people of faith.' "

And that may be position of Starbucks. It was widely criticized by evangelical Christian groups last summer after its cups included a quote from the writer Armistead Maupin that said, "My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long."

Robert H. Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute, one of the conservative groups that led the charge, said the company's support for liberal causes made it an obvious target.

"Starbucks has long served up a New Age secular worldview," he said. "It's about time that they acknowledged that 90 percent of Americans believe in God and that millions of them are Christian."

Starbucks executives deny that the company was trying to placate religious groups when it decided to add Mr. Warren's quote to its cups. "We're trying to show a diversity of thought and opinion," said Anne Saunders, a senior vice president in charge of marketing. "There is not a quote that's an answer to another."

In any case, if religion is good for Starbucks, is Starbucks good for religion? Being associated with a $5 soy mocha latte may spread the word, but at what cost to the image of a heartfelt faith?

"Sometimes it's so vulgar that it's not particularly good for religion," Mr. Novak said. "But if religion is in everything, it has to be in the vulgar stuff, too."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

God is the healer - why not ask him?

My name means "farmer" in the Greek - George. I'm a long way from being a farmer, being the "city" person that I am.

I'm most comfortable in the city. I can find my way around, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Brussels, Paris, Geneva, Los Angeles and Dallas, but you get me out in the rural areas of southwest Michigan and I get lost quick, real quick.

So our names don't necessarily match with our personality or character. Back in Bible times, that wasn't so.

Names meant something.

Mephibosheth means "exterminator of shame"
Merodachbaladan means "Mardul has given a son"
Jesus means "savior".

Their names characterized who they were.

One name for God in the Old Covenant is "Jehovah-Rapha"meaning literally "the Lord Healer."

He is the God who heals us.

In his book, God Is Closer Than You Think, John Ortberg includes this story about the power of prayer.

"When my friend Kim was a young girl, her dad pulled the car off the road one day to help a woman change a flat tire. While he was lying under her car, another vehicle accidentally swerved to the shoulder, and in the collision the car was shoved onto his chest. His right thumb was torn off at the joint, five of his ribs were broken, and his left lung was pierced and began filling with blood.

His wife, who is barely five-feet-tall, placed her hands on the bumper of the car and prayed, "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ," and lifted the car off his chest so he could be dragged out. (Some weeks later she found out that she broke a vertebra in the effort).

Kim's father was in a state of shock as he was taken to the hospital. Doctors prepared him for emergency surgery. "His thumb won't do him any good if he's dead," one of them said. His survival was iffy.

Suddenly, spontaneously, the man's skin changed from ashen to pink. He experienced a miraculous healing. He invited a surprised surgical team to join him in singing "Fairest Lord Jesus." They did not even bother to hook him up to oxygen. He did not find out until later that this was the precise moment his father-in-law, who was a pastor, had his congregation start to pray for him.

Sometimes these stories come from not-very-credible sources - such as publications sold in grocery checkout lines that also carry news about extraterrestrial creatures secretly playing third base for the Boston Red Sox. In this case, however, the subject was James Loder, a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary. His life was not only saved, but changed. Until then, although he taught at a seminary, God had been mostly an abstract idea to him.

Now Jesus became a living Presence. Kim writes that her father's heart grew so tender that he became known at Princeton as "the weeping professor." He began to live from one moment to the next in a God-bathed, God-soaked, God-intoxicated world.

God heals us spiritually by restoring our relationship with Him.
God heals us emotionally by giving us peace in the midst of our storm.
God heals us physically by touching our bodies in a supernatural way that natural science cannot.

God is the healer!

Do you need healing today? I would suggest you talk to Jehovah Rapha who can touch you and bring about the healing that you need.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

God's way is the right way

As much as I sometimes don't want to admit it, God's way is always the right way.

In my sinfulness and rebellion, and in spite of my spiritual growth, I find myself digging in my heels at certain points of my life and insisting that I go my own way. Or worst still, I go my own way and don't consult with God first.

The Bible is full of guideposts that show us the way. With those things that are not clearly marked, we have the Holy Spirit to lead us.

Listen to this story:

As a ship approached the coast of New England, a heavy fog set in. The ship's radar detected what appeared to be another vessel in its path, so the captain sent the following message:

"Change your course 10 degrees port."

Shortly they received a reply:
"Change YOUR course 10 degree starboard."

The captain became annoyed and said:
"I am a Lt. Commander of the U.S. Navy. Change your course."

This was the response:
"I am a seaman 3rd class. Change your course."

By now the captain was furious. His message read:
"This is a battleship! Change your course."

Moments later a message came across the wire that said:
"This is a Lighthouse! Change Your Course!"

There are certain laws at work in the universe, and no amount of power, or money, or influence can change them.

These laws are God's laws. He designed them to work for us, not against us. In order for this to happen, we sometimes have to change our course. His laws don't change; we must change.

God's way is always the right way.

When we try to find happiness, fulfillment, and meaning in life through any method other than a personal relationship with God, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

Drugs won't do it. Alcohol won't do it. Hours watching T.V. won't do it. More money won't to it. Bigger vacations won't do it.

But it doesn't have to be that way. We can change our course at anytime. We can choose life over death; we can choose spiritual blessings over self-destruction.

God doesn't change his course to accommodate us, but if we are willing to change our course, to chart the path of lives in his direction, he will to open his arms wide to receive us, and will shower us with blessings from heaven.

These are his words...

"I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live, and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life..." (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

God's way is always the right way.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Serving others is the way to greatness

Over the course of years of ministry, I have had the opportunity to touch base with some of the giants of the faith, most recently, Jack Hayford.

At a pastor conference of 40 men and women, he invited us over to his home on a Monday night for dinner. It was a wonderful experience. He makes you feel special, like you are one of a kind.

My point is not to impress you with my brush with greatness. My point is to emphasize why Jack Hayford has become great. One simple reason: people matter to him. He has made a lifestyle of building up others—even others who can't offer much in return.

The Apostle Paul wrote...

Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. (Romans 15:2)

For his good, Paul said. In our quid-pro-quo culture, someone who is strengthening others with no strings attached will stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Arthur Ashe once said, "True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but he urge to serve others a whatever cost.

Mark writes in Mark 10:45, "Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'

This week our challenge from God's word is to strive to build up others.

Our challenge is to make someone feel special.

Not for own interests, not in order to further our goals, but for their good. From a practical standpoint, doing this may not increase your bottom line. But from a spiritual standpoint, it will make a difference for all eternity.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Beethoven's Paper Trail

I read an article yesterday in the New York Times entitled, "Beethoven's Paper Trail", by Edmund Morris.

It really fascinated me. If you get a chance, read the article and tell me what you think. Are we losing our ability to create with all five senses? Touch, taste, feel, hear, see? And what about the spirit? Where does the spirit come in?

Here is his article:

"My first reaction to the announcement last week that a major Beethoven manuscript had been discovered in a Pennsylvania seminary was an aching desire to see it. (The ache will not be gratified until the work goes on exhibit at Sotheby's on Nov. 16.) To see it. How often we use that phrase in a tactile sense - as when, for example, we ask a jeweler to unlock his cabinet and bring out a Rolex so we can feel its cold, thrilling weight on our wrist. Eye contact is enough, though, when we cannot gratify our animal desire to caress whatever is unattainable, inimitable or worshipful.

Beethoven's manuscripts are revelatory, because he was an intensely physical person who fought his music onto the page, splattering ink, breaking nibs, even ripping the paper in the process. Not for him the serene penmanship of J. S. Bach, whose undulant figurations sway like ship masts over calm seas, or the hasty perfection of Mozart, or the quasi-mathematical constructs of Webern. Their writing is the product of minds already made up.

Beethoven was so full of ideas that to fire them out - to see which were precious metal and which mere dross - was a process in which he needed to involve his eyes and his hands (not to mention his heels drumming out rhythms, and his voice howling and groaning: landlords were forever giving him notice). Long before he went deaf, he was perhaps the most prodigious sketcher in musical history, unable to walk around a room or, I regret to say, sit down on a toilet without doodling hieroglyphics on every reachable surface. Even when perambulating around Vienna at a hyperactive clip, he was always stopping to scribble something in a notebook that seemed to be an inseparable part of his left hand.

One such scribble was the "lightning flash" theme that begins the second movement of the Ninth Symphony. It struck Beethoven one night as he was emerging from a bright interior into darkness. To page through his sketchbook of the period, and see it suddenly appear amid clouds of murky musical thought, is to feel the electricity of genius.

The newly discovered manuscript - an 80-page piano version of his famous "Grosse Fuge" for string quartet, Op. 133 - dates from 1826, the last full year of Beethoven's life. It is reported to be typically three-dimensional, with erasures worn into holes, and a large patch of rewritten music spackled onto one page with sealing wax. Since the "Grosse Fuge" is the single most pugnacious movement in Beethoven - 15 minutes of furious contrapuntal combat, adored by Stravinsky - what we will be seeing at Sotheby's promises to be as much an artifact as an autograph.

Somebody who still works like Beethoven is the French artist Bernard Dufour. His drawing hand substitutes on camera for that of the actor Michel Piccoli in Jacques Rivette's masterly film "La Belle Noiseuse," about a painter struggling to execute his final masterpiece. One notices, as the hand reaches out to select a pen and jab it into the ink bottle, the violence of its movements, impatient yet tentative, as if wondering in which direction to discharge its energy. The sketchpad lies white, waiting to be savaged by the looming nib.

Then down the sharp thing comes, at a deliberately obtuse angle, so that the first line is not so much drawn but dug out of the paper. Nor is there as much ink running as you would expect; the artist seems to be daring his inspiration to dry up. More swoops and gougings, then suddenly a deliberate splash of ink, which the heel of the hand smudges across some cross-hatching ... and lo, the curve of a naked woman's thigh materializes out of the whiteness, and art begins to happen.

It is moving to watch, because we can feel Mr. Dufour's love of struggle, his sheer joy in being bespattered, stained and even resisted (when a sketch obstinately refuses to cohere) by the materials at hand. Such relish is of course characteristic of workers in the plastic arts. But with the decline of painting and drawing in recent years, in favor of hands-off processes like video recording, performance art and installations farmed out to contractors, even artists are putting less and less of themselves into their work - with the result that what there is of it, is cold. I had to spend a few weeks earlier this year looking down from my window at Christo's orange hangings in Central Park, and got back from them nothing but a sense of manufactured lifelessness.

I worry that further withdrawal of the body will increasingly depersonalize creativity in our computerized age. It is already a given that many young architects can't draw, relying on circuitry to do their imaging for them. Nor can many of them model, never having built things with their hands as children, and felt the pliancy and fragility of structures, the interrelationship of empty space and solid mass. Recently my wife and I bought a country house designed by just such an architect. It looked great until we discovered that the main floor sagged in the middle because it lacked the kind of central support that a child, 40 years ago, would have sensed was necessary in the foundation.

Writing does not, of course, rate high on the tactile scale of things. But a screen of glass impregnated with pixels now gleams in front of practically every young person who wishes to commit words to - I was going to say paper, but will avoid the anachronism. Today's words, dit-ditted downward, flash off somewhere at the speed of light and assemble themselves in electronic limbo. Seen through the glass darkly, they look seductively perfect, every character proportional, every paragraph in alignment. Why mess around with them? In any case, if their orthography is not quite correct, a default "word processor" (ghastly phrase) will alter them to its liking.

A couple of years ago I had a disillusioning residency with students at the University of Chicago who wished, or thought they wished, to master the art of narrative nonfiction. Cyberspatial innocent that I am, I was at first puzzled by the weird uniformity of their written "style," if that's the word for prose equally composed of I.M.-speak and catchphrases downloaded by the megabyte. At last, like the girl in "Stage Door Canteen," I caught on. But what was even weirder was the way these not-unintelligent seniors looked at me as I lectured them on Tolstoy's frenzied chicken-scratches all over proofs of "War and Peace," Capote's yellow-paper drafts of "In Cold Blood" and Nabokov's exquisite watercolor diagrams, illustrative of metric schemes in poetry yet at the same time touchingly reminiscent of butterfly wings.

What freaked me out was the students' collective gaze, not uninterested, but uninvolved. They weren't listening so much as watching. To them, I was just the latest in a lifetime's succession of images, another talking head.

I doubt I'll see any of them when I go to look at the "Grosse Fuge" manuscript next month. Why should they bother? They can already "access" it on the Internet. But without seeing the real thing, with actual light falling on its scuffs and blotches, will they ever feel the desperate energy of a dying Beethoven, imprisoned in the cavern of his own disability?"

Edmund Morris, who has written biographies of Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, is the author, most recently, of "Beethoven: The Universal Composer."

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Growing in God

I desire to grow in my walk with God. You might ask, "How can I prevent my personal Christian growth from becoming stagnant?"

Let me answer that question with a question. Did you know that you will always struggle with your tendency to make mistakes in life until you die? That no one will be perfect until they are with Jesus in eternity?

And then let me follow that with a statement:

A person who is truly "in Christ" is a person that is growing in God.

Now, obviously, our Christian growth can move at various speeds, and we tend to have times of rapid acceleration in our walk with God, and then have times when we are completely stale, stagnant, moving at a snail's pace. I experience that a lot. Sometimes I wonder if God is really even there; at other times I want to pray for everybody that crosses my path.

When we are growing "at a snail's pace," we may think that we are totally stagnant. But we are not. Little growth is better than no growth at all.

If there is no evidence of growth whatsoever in our life with God, I would suggest that it's time to examine our spirits and our hearts to see if we're in Christ al all because when the Holy Spirit lives in us, he will not permit total stagnation.

How do I grow?


I must be a learner.

Now that doesn't mean simply to accumulate date and/or head knowledge, but coming to an understanding of what it is that pleases God and what it is that pleases Jesus. I must work at my love and enjoy my relationship with God.

That comes through the spiritual disciplines.

Reading the Word.
Having conversations with God.
Sharing my faith.
Be faithful to coming to church.

The best way I know of becoming disciplined is by first learning patterns of discipline under somebody else's mentoring. Join a small group. Talk to Pastor Ron about being discipled. Approach one of the pastors for and schedule a time for coffee.

May we all grow in the Lord today!