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Thursday, December 14, 2006

The good news of Christmas

From my house to yours - Merry Christmas! We love you!

Let me share with you the good news of Christmas:

Luke 2:1-20:

1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.

2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

3And everyone went to his own town to register.

4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.

5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,

7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.

9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord.

12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,

18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

God's work of art

Throughout life, it is inevitable that someone(s) will try to beat you down. Whether it's at work or in the pathway of life itself, we all come across people who either intentionally or unintentionally make it their life mission to show how inferior we are or how stupid we can be.

It's during those times that I love Ephesians 2:10, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (King James Version)

The word "workmanship," comes from the Greek word "Poiema" which means "to make poetry".

The words signifies that which is manufactured, a product, a design produced by an artist.

Who is the master artist but God? And who has created you and I but God?

Before we connect to Christ in relationship, our lives have not rhyme or reason. A relationship with Jesus brings us balance, symmetry, and order. We are God's poem, His work of art!

So, when you come across that "person" who tries to beat you down today, go home knowing that God created you, you are a work of art, and that in Christ, you are somebody!

And who's opinion is more important - God's or that person?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The return of Christ

I was raised with a healthy diet of "Jesus is coming" sermons. We've kind of gotten away from that in the realization that Jesus is coming (and I am looking forward to it) but we also have the responsibility to life in the present, in the now.

However, I am longing for the return of Jesus. I mean that. It's not just something I teach, but it's buried deep within the inner caverns of my spirit.

Paul writes in First Corinthians 15:51,52, "Behold, I tell you a mystery: "We shall not all sleep, but we will all be changed - in a MOMENT, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet."

The word "moment" is the greet word "atomos" from which we get our English word "atomic".

It means, uncut, individual, undissected, infinitely small.

The word is a compound of a, "un," and temnos, "to cut in two." When used of time, it represents an extremely short unit of time, a flash, an instant, a unit of time that cannot be divided. A second can be calibrated to on-tenth, one one-hundredth, and one one-thousandth of a second. But how do you calibrate an atomic second? Christ's return will be in an atomic second.


How do you feel about that? Are you ready?

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Christmas perspective

In his book Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller writes about a Christmas Eve when his view of God was changed, and how that affected his perspective on everything else.

For my mother that year I had purchased a shabby Christmas gift—a book, the contents of which she would never be interested in. I had had a sum of money with which to buy presents, and the majority of it I used to buy fishing equipment….

I drifted in and out of anxious sleep, and this is when it occurred to me that the gift I had purchased for my mother was bought with the petty change left after I had pleased myself. I realized I had set the happiness of my mother beyond my own material desires.

This was a different sort of guilt from anything I had previously experienced. It was a heavy guilt, not the sort of guilt that I could do anything about. It was a haunting feeling, the sort of sensation you get when you wonder whether you are two people, the other of which does things you can't explain, bad and terrible things.

The guilt was so heavy that I fell out of bed onto my knees and begged, not a slot-machine God, but a living, feeling God, to stop the pain. I crawled out of my room and into the hallway by my mother's door and lay on my elbows and face for an hour or so, going sometimes to sleep, before finally the burden lifted and I was able to return to my room.

We opened the rest of our gifts the next morning, and I was pleased to receive what I did, but when my mother opened her silly book, I asked her forgiveness, saying how much I wished I had done more. She, of course, pretended to enjoy the gift, saying how she wanted to know about the subject.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The church - external focus

Found an interesting article. I don't agree with everything he writes but it will stimulate your thoughts.....what do you think?

external focus by Rick Rusaw

Suppose you pulled into the church parking lot and noticed something unusual. The building had disappeared and with it—the church. After you realized that it wasn’t a hallucination brought on by the triple espresso you had just knocked back, you decide to go look for the church. You start driving around town asking people if they had seen a church that morning because you had somehow misplaced one.

What response would you get? Would people notice it was gone? Would they miss your congregation? Would anyone care? Those are the questions that externally-focused churches are asking themselves.

There are plenty of churches in America, but far too often the focus of the church is internal. The emphasis is on getting people out of the community and into the church. Obviously, helping people discover God’s grace (Good News) and connecting them with his kingdom is critical. However, too many churches today measure their effectiveness by the number of people and activities inside. By contrast, externally-focused churches are interested in getting people out of the church and into the community. Externally-focused churches see a strong connection with Good News and Good Deeds. They recognize that good deeds often pave the path for good news. They understand that good deeds can be the bridge over which good news travels.

It isn’t an “either/or” choice for externally-focused churches. It is a case of “both/and.” Seeking the lost AND serving the least was the mark of the early Church and the mandate of Jesus. By nearly every account you read, the headlines say that the church in America doesn’t seem to be gaining ground but rather losing relevance, and with that—losing people. One way to restore credibility, create relationships, and demonstrate grace is to serve outside the walls of your building. Good deeds demonstrate the very heart of the church and enhance the reputation of God. In the same way let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Mt 5:16)

In ways that I imagine we never planned on, the Church in America has found itself increasingly disconnected. In part, the current age of tolerance means tolerance for everything but Christianity. (I find it intriguing that the most intolerant people I meet are the ones screaming for tolerance, but that’s another topic altogether.) Keeping faith out of the schools, out of the marketplace and out of the public arena is the popular position today. It would be a mistake, however, to believe that the primary reason faith is relegated to a back seat in our communities is because of public pressure.

It seems to me that, in many ways, the church in America has found more and more ways to disengage from our communities. It doesn’t seem to be intentional or strategic but it has been effective. According to Gallup, 66% of people in America would make or agree with this statement, “The church has little or no value in helping people discover meaning in life.” Our disengagement has happened bit by bit. It could be described like this: “We didn’t like the stream that was flowing by the front door of the church. The water was murky and muddy and there were chunks of stuff floating in it. So, we created our own streams up behind the church.”

Interestingly enough, although the water is a bit cleaner and we can see the bottom most of the time, the streams run parallel with each other. For example, Christians and non-Christians divorce at the same rate, we get addicted at the same rate, and many have the same issues and struggles (again, another topic for another time). Basically, because we didn’t like the color or direction of the stream, we started our own stream. We didn’t like what was happening in some of the business organizations, so we began our own versions. We didn’t like what was happening in the public schools, so we began our own. Today we have a Christian version of everything from Christian books, Christian TV, even Christian underwear. We’ve got it all, don’t we?

Here’s just one example of how this parallel stream gets started. Much was happening in the public schools that Christians didn’t agree with…and rightly so. So, we started our own schools. We pulled out the Christian students, the Christian parents, the Christian teachers, Christian lunch room staff, Christian coaches and Christian administrators. This may sound harsh, but in essence, we said to the public school, “Go to Hell.” Some might say that’s a bit of an overstatement. But is it? In ways we never intended, we Christians have become increasingly disengaged from our communities and wonder why we have so little influence.

I have some very close friends who might read this article and let me know they don’t agree, or don’t like how I write, or simply tell me how stupid I can be. I have to admit their comments might make me mad. I might disagree, it might hurt, and I may choose to debate them. At the end of the day, though, I have to listen to them. They are my friends and have earned the right to be heard. We have laughed together, cried together and journeyed together. My friends have earned the right to speak into my life. I am afraid that we have lost that right in our communities. We speak and nobody listens. We stand on the banks of the shore and shout at the water. We let them know that they are heading in the wrong direction—that things are getting worse—but I’m afraid that they can’t or won’t listen because we do not have the relational strength to speak into the fabric of our communities.

It’s time to get back in the stream. There are risks—it isn’t easy and the opportunity to connect takes time. But, by getting into the stream, it’s possible that we will have the opportunity to be salt and light in our communities. It seems that the easiest way to get back in the stream is to find ways to serve in our communities—that means that we look for opportunities beyond our four walls and find ways to meet needs. It also means that we help the people we worship with each week to discover grace, grow in grace and learn to live gracefully. We must help them realize that God is writing his story and he plans on that story being written through their story. The people in your church can make a difference in their part of the world as they serve and live with grace.

Remember third grade and Show and Tell? You stand in the front of the room and show the item you brought from home and then you would tell about it. Maybe we need to do more “show and tell” in our communities, earning the right to be heard. Service can help build that relational bridge, allowing Christians to speak into the life of the community.

Good deeds create good will and give us the opportunity to share Good News!

Back to your triple espresso-induced hallucination: As you’re driving around town looking for your missing church, WHAT IF nearly everyone you asked said, “Let me help you find it because we can’t live without the church in this community!” Now THAT’S the church we all want to pastor!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Praying for our children

Last night we had a great time at our annual deacon/staff Christmas dinner. It was a lot of fun.

After our time of praying together as individual tables, I sense a deep burden in my spirit to pray for the children of all of our deacons and staff. Knowing them as well as I do, I know that each individual family has struggles and issues and trials with their kids.

Today at our saints alive (seniors meeting) I am sharing on the subject of how to pray for our children.

Here are some of the thoughts that I am going to share with them. I encourage you to implement them in your own prayer life.

I recently saw a bumper sticker that read, "I have teenagers! Pray for me!"

What applies to teenagers can apply to our adult children and grandchildren as well.

We feel such a burden for them. We want the best for them. We don’t want them to experience hurt and pain.

We want them to make wise choices.

We want them to serve God.

I beginning to learn that many times, in fact most of the time, in this season of our lives, all we can do is pray.

I say that making it sound like it’s the last and only thing we can do. But in reality, it’s the first and most important thing that we can do for our children and grandchildren and for some of you your great grandchildren.

God calls us to pray for our kids and to keep on praying.

For reasons known only to God, God pays attention to our persistence in prayer. There is something about multiple requests that brings answers.

A huge Chicago company is one of the world's largest magazine fulfillment firms. That means they handle subscription mailings by computer. Among other things, they send out renewal and expiration notices.

One day the company's computer malfunctioned. Soon after, a rancher in Powder Bluff, Colorado, got 9,734 separate mailings informing him that his subscription to National Geographic had expired.

This got the rancher's attention. He dropped what he was doing and traveled 10 miles to the nearest post office, where he sent in money for a renewal along with a note that said, "I give up! Send me your magazine!"

We are to be persistent in our prayers.

Today we’re going to talk about how we can pray for our children.

Today’s scripture encourages us to pray for many things.

How many of us today are worried about our children? Their spiritual walk with God. Their physical health. The way they are dealing with problems at work and home. Their relationships.

What are we to do?

The Message Bible puts it this way.

Philippians 4:4-7:

"Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life."

How do you go about shaping your concerns about your children or grandchildren or other children you come into contact with into meaningful prayers that will make a difference?

I don’t think most of us think about the many creative ways we can pray that will make an impact on our families.

Have you ever prayed and you found the same tired, boring words repetitiously coming out of your mouth?

Like saying out of habit, "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep..."

Or the blessing over your meals,

"God is great, God is good..."

I believe we can add specific things to these "starter" prayers that will make them fit our particular situation and make them more powerful, effective prayers.

Look back at your own life.

Who prayed for you? How did you think they prayed? What were they asking God to do in your life?

Dad praying for me as a teenager.

In Point Man, Steve Farrar tells the story of George McCluskey.

When McCluskey married and started a family, he decided to invest one hour a day in prayer, because he wanted his kids to follow Christ. After a time, he expanded his prayers to include his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Every day between 11 a.m. and noon, he prayed for the next three generations.

As the years went by, his two daughters committed their lives to Christ and married men who went into full-time ministry. The two couples produced four girls and one boy.

Each of the girls married a minister, and the boy became a pastor. The first two children born to this generation were both boys. Upon graduation from high school, the two cousins chose the same college and became roommates.

During their sophomore year, one boy decided to go into the ministry. The other didn't. He undoubtedly felt some pressure to continue the family legacy, but he chose instead to pursue his interest in psychology.

He earned his doctorate and eventually wrote books for parents that became bestsellers. He started a radio program heard on more than a thousand stations each day. The man's name was James Dobson, the head of “Focus on the Family. Through his prayers, George McCluskey affected far more than one family.

Maybe you’ll never know whose prayers shaped your life, but starting today you can conscientiously pray more effectively for those whom you care about and love so much.

There are four general areas in which we can target our prayers.

We find this in scripture.

Luke 2:52 says that

"Jesus increased in wisdom (academic) and in stature (physical), and in favor with God (spiritual) and man (social)."

Many times we pray that children will be HAPPY and do well in school or their jobs or excel in sports or music or any number of things.

First of all we see in this scripture that Jesus had a balanced life—

He grew strong physically and was in good health.

He increased in wisdom and knowledge--the academic part of his life.

And in favor with God--the spiritual and with man--the social side of his life.

Here are some ideas which will help us to pray more effectively in these four areas:

1. Spiritual:

Pray that they will come to know Christ as their Savior early in life. Pray that they will have a strong relationship with Him.

Psalms 63:1 tells us, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

2 Timothy 3:15 says, “And how from infancy, you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Pray that they will have a hunger for God. That they will draw closer to God.

Pray that God will place people into their lives who will help them grow in their walk with Him.

Pray that your children and grandchildren will come to know Christ early in life.

Samuel was another person who scripture says,

"Grew in favor with the Lord" (I Samuel 2:26) (Spiritual).

2. Pray that they will be willing to make a TOTAL commitment to the Lord--that He will not only be their SAVIOR but LORD OF THEIR LIFE as well.

If your children make Jesus their number one priority, they will be able to make better choices.

That’s one thing I pray on a consistent daily basis.

Father, help my children make wise choices.

I can always be there to give them the wisdom that they need. But I can pray that God will be there, that the Holy Spirit will lead them and guide them.

Pray that God will guide them into a totally committed life.

There is power in commitment:

It was on Christmas Eve, after a Romanian church had gathered for candlelight service, that the Communist soldiers came to take the pastor.

The people lined up outside the church--10, 15, 20, 30 deep--encircling the church and saying, "If you come after the pastor, you come after us first." The soldiers couldn't get in.

They couldn't move them. The candle lights began to move through the cities. As those candles began to spread, others came out into the street, and courage came. On Christmas Day the people said, "We've had enough of this," and the terrible dictator of Romania, the despot and his wife, were executed on Christmas day, 1989.

Pray that they will have a hatred for sin.

Psalm 97:10 says, "Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and deliver them from the hand of the wicked."

Pray that they will be caught when guilty.

Psalm 119:71 says, "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees."

The Message Bible says, "My troubles turned out all for the best--they forced me to learn from your textbook" (Psalm 119:71).

It is said that "Bad Behaviors are like Trees. They’re a lot easier to remove when they’re still seedlings."

Pray that bad behavior will be nipped in the bud before it gets so deeply ingrained that it is hard to change.

Allow your children to feel the consequences when they do wrong.

Don’t be the person who bails them out all the time. Allow "troubles to teach good lessons" rather than enabling them to continue in their wrong ways.

Parents say, "I don’t want them to suffer, they won’t take responsibility for their actions, and I have to step in and be the rescuer."

Don’t be the "bail out person" but rather pray that they will learn to totally submit to God and learn how to actively resist Satan in all circumstances.

James 4:7 says, "Submit yourselves to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you."

2. SOCIAL: A second area of concern is in relationships.

Pray that they don’t choose friends who will be detrimental to them and lead them into wrong.

There are several scriptures that show that we don’t have to be led astray.

One is in the prayer we say every week--we say, "and deliver us from evil"—

We live in a world of many temptations and pitfalls but we don’t have to stumble and fall into sin.

Jesus told his disciples, you’re living in a world of temptation but

"my prayer is not that you will be [taken out] of the world but that you will be [protected] from the evil one. John 17:15.

Pray that God will protect them from evil in each area of their life--spiritual, social, academic, and physical.

Pray that they will have a responsible attitude in all their interpersonal relationships.

Throughout life we have many different kinds of friends.

Some will be "good time" friends only staying by our side when we’re having fun.

Then there are "what’s in it for me friends." When benefits run out, they drop you.

A true friend will find something positive to say about your new perm even though it looks like you took a bath with the toaster.

A true friend can see you at your worst and not take pictures.

Pray that they will desire the right kind of friends and be protected from the wrong ones.

Proverbs 1:10, 11 says,

"...if sinners entice you, do not give in to them."

Pray that they won’t go along with the crowd when peer pressure tempts them. Pray that God will lead them to the right mate as well.

Pray that they will be hedged in so they cannot find their way to wrong people and wrong places and that wrong people can’t find their way to them. Job prayed for his family in this way.

3. Academic: School work should be important. Pray that they will strive to excel in the academic part of their lives.

Work--Pray, "teach my children, Lord, to work hard at everything they do ‘as working unto the Lord, not for men" (Colossians 3:23).

Self-discipline--Pray, "Father, I pray that my children may develop self discipline, that they may acquire a ‘disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair" (Proverbs 1:3).

Servant heart--Pray that they will develop a servant heart. Say, "God, please help my children to develop a servant heart that they may SERVE
wholeheartedly rather than BEING SERVED all the time.

4. PHYSICAL: Pray that they will not begin habits that will be detrimental to a strong and healthy body.

I Corinthians 6:19 says,

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?" Pray that your children will not begin to experiment with drugs, alcohol and tobacco in the first place.

I Timothy 2:11 says "abstain from sinful desires that war against your soul."

There was a newspaper article about a pet boa constrictor that squeezed the life out of its teenage owner.

The boy’s parents were distraught and lamented to the reporter, "we trusted that snake."

How often do we allow something harmful into our lives--bad habits, poor judgments, compromising actions, undesirable friends and refuse to let go until we are caught in sin’s deadly "squeeze."

Pray that they will maintain a life of physical fitness--I Timothy 4:8 says, "for physical training is of some value..."

Studies show that children have more of a problem with obesity, diabetes and other health concerns than at any other time in history.

Pray for your child’s good health.

I would like to conclude with this prayer.

A Parent’s Prayer

Dear Lord,

Help us as parents to be what we want our children to be.

To see Christ in us, especially when we are tired and rushed. Help us never to be too busy to stop and listen to them with all our attention.

Lord, guide us so that we will have no habits that we would not want them to have. Give us the courage to withhold a privilege which we think would not be best for them. Lord, let them see that the Christian life is the greatest life on earth.

Lord, what we want more than anything else is to love them and care for them as you love and care for us. Thank you for being my loving Father.

Help us to be their loving parents.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Why not Michigan?

Living in Michigan, the question of who will play Ohio State in the College Football Championship in January has been a hot topic this past week.

Florida was chosen. I'm glad that they announced it Sunday night and not Saturday. It made my job a lot easier on Sunday morning.

Why was Florida chosen. The BCS "club" has everything so complex that it's hard for the "lay person" to really get a handle on it - what are "style points" exactly?

Let me tell you why I think Michigan was NOT chosen.

It's all about money.

A Michigan - Ohio State game would keep the T.V. demiographics to a limited area (the mid-west) thereby lowering the amount of people who would watch the game.

Forida or USC (before they lost to UCLA) would throw in people from the southeast or the west coast.

I really don't think Michigan had a chance to play Ohio State - besides, didn't they already have their shot?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Liking yourself

Do you like yourself?

Kind of an interesting question.

Here's what I know: if I don't like myself, I generally won't like other people as well.

To be candid with you, most of us don't like something about ourselves--usually something we had nothing to do with or can do nothing about.

Such as: "Why can't I be taller, skinnier, better-looking? Why couldn't I have been born rich? Why couldn't I have been born in another place, or another time? Why couldn't I have a more pleasant singing voice or a better jump shot (I know that Rick Odden wishes for the last one)?"

You might be dissatisfied with the raw material you were given to work with, but the Bible says that God made you just as you are, and he specifically had you in mind at the time.

There is only one you.

Here's how David expressed it.

"You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous -- and how well I know it.

You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God!" (Psalm 139:13-17)

Abraham Lincoln said, "It is difficult to make a man miserable when he feels worthy of himself and claims kindred to the great God who made him."

Do you remember the gospel story of the man born blind? Jesus was asked who was at fault -- the blind man or his parents? Jesus said, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned. This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." (John 9:2)

Instead of grumbling about who you are, take some time to thank God for how he created you. He chose your parents, your birthday, your physical attributes, your talents, your intellectual capacity -- you are just as he wanted you to be. He even knows about your weaknesses and limitations.

Just like the man who received the gift of sight, remember that you are who you are so that, somehow, God's work can be displayed in your life. That's what he had in mind when he created you.

How might you display his work today?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


We had a great time at our small group last night. We all brought pictures from our childhood and weddings.

It was interesting to see the way everyone has changed over the years.

Memories are very, very important. They can build us up, or they can tear us down.

Some memories we cherish, others we would rather forget.

What's amazing about God is that he chooses to not remember my mistakes and failures, but is going to reward me one day for what I have done right.

Dwell on that for a moment.

That's what I would call "selective memory" at its finest.

God has "selective memory."

The Bible says he puts my sins as far away as the East is from the West.

Can we not be thankful for that today!

And would it not behoove us to do the same in our relationships with others? We must learn from the past, but not dwell on the past.

Paul said that we are to forget those thing that are behind and press on toward the goal of drawing closer to God.

Learn from the past - but don't dwell on the past.

Onward and upward!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Miracles part deux

I watched an interesting episode of "House" last night. House was his being his typical ornery self. It was a classic clash of science and faith or as the program purported it to be - between House and God.

The opening scene was pretty right on, it showed a young teenager "preaching" the Word concerning faith and healing. I couldn't find anything wrong with it, in fact, his sermon was something you would hear in Pentecostal churches across the country.

The teenager gets sick in the midst of praying for someone and goes to the hospital. He finds himself praying for a cancer patient, and her cancer goes into remission.

The program leads you to believe that there is a possibility that God really did do a miracle!

But, and I might say unsurprisingly, House comes up with scientific evidence for the remission and at the same time exposes the young teenagers sins.

Wow..So much there, the program raises more questions, I believe, than it answered.

Questions such as:

Can God uses someone who is (or did) participate in sexual immorality?
Is there scientific evidence for every miracle in the Bible?
If there is scientific evidence for a miracle - does that negate the miracle itself?

And then at the end of the program, Wilson makes a profound comment, "Just because you believe in something, doesn't mean that you are going to live up to it," speaking of the fact that the teenager really believed in faith and healing, but his life did live up to it.

Lots of questions - any answers out there?

Monday, November 27, 2006


Back in the early 1980's there was a movement call the "Vineyard" churches. Their founder was a man by the name of John Wimber. John Wimber had a profound influence ironically enough, on the evangelical community concerning the subject of miracles and healing.

We as Pentecostals gave it a passing nod, but didn't pay it much attention.

His whole emphasis, that through signs and wonders, people are not only ministered to, but secular people are attracted to the gospel and connect with God.

I really believe that he was on to something there.

Wouldn't it be great to see people actually healed in our times together! And wouldn't it further be great to hear stories of miracles!

One time Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer - it was about three in the afternoon. A man who was crippled form birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.

Peter and John come along, and he asks them for money.

Peter says, "Sliver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the names of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk."

Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong.

He jumped to his feet and began to walk.

Somehow I can't see Peter wearing a white suit and having a how great thou art mood music song in the background.

I think Peter said this in a very normal tone of voice - almost matter of fact.

I think miracles were happening so fast in the early church that there was no need for mood music or sensationalism.

That's what I am talking about. And that was what Vineyard churches at the beginning of their movement were all about.

Healings and miracles should be a normal happenstance in our every day lives. In order for that to happen, let's don't go to the extreme of doing certain emotional and physical gyrations or weird stuff. God's power doesn't have to be weird!

God can move within the context of our everyday, normal lives. A simple prayer of faith will work wonders!

May you come across someone today with whom you can pray for a miracle. And may that miracle be granted.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


I am grateful.

I'm grateful for God's patience with me.

For life.

I'm grateful for the ability to see, touch, taste (especially tomorrow), walk, feel, and hear.

I am grateful for health.

I am grateful for my relationship with God and the knowledge that I am going to spend eternity with Him.

I am grateful for a loving family, a wonderful and beautiful wife who continually makes me laugh, and 3 children who bring a tremendous amount of joy in my life.

I am grateful for my church family.

I know that they are there in my time of need.

I am grateful for friends such as Rick, Jon, Dale and Gary who allow me to be myself and yet continue to want to hang around me (now that's friendship).

Thanks, God. I am grateful to you.

Happy thanksgiving to all.....

With much love,


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The three stooges

When I was a kid, I loved to watch the "Three stooges." Their sense of physical comedy really appealed to me.

Sometimes when I read about Peter, James and John, I think of Larry, Moe and Curly. I mean, these guys, until they were transformed by Jesus were full of hijinks and mischief.

Peter was brash, proud and outgoing. At one point he denied the Lord, and another point he even rebuked Jesus (oh, by the way, did I mention that Jesus was the Son of God?)

James and John were known as the "Sons of thunder." Now usually when you get a nickname it's for a reason. At one point they came across a village that didn't want to accept them or help them, and J and J wanted to call down a "rain of fire" upon the village and destroy them.

Jesus basically said, whoa now....slow down a little bit here.

You see, perhaps Peter and J and J were not so close to Jesus because of their personalities or friendship with Jesus, but because they required more attention. Like the student who is "asked" to sit by the teacher in class.

Sometime we have friendships, not for what we can get out of them, but for what we can give. Some friendships are there to coach, to mentor, to disciple, to help people grow in God.

Let me ask you this: who are you reaching out to this day - so that they might draw closer to Christ?

Just a thought....

Oh, and by the way, because of the attention of Jesus? Peter died for God and help found The Church. John became the apostle of love. James the pastor in Jerusalem. Wow......

Monday, November 20, 2006


Have you ever longed for something only to realize that what you were longing for really didn't matter that much?

Think about that for a moment.

We long for a great Thanksgiving and Christmas (Christmas tree, turkey, ham, all the fixin's) - only to realize that it's friends and family that make a great Christmas and our relationships with them.

We long for success, only to realize that in the long run it's signficance that matters. Who am I influencing for good? What relationship am I in this day that I can encourage and deepen?

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 15:17, "Better a meal of vergetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred."

And then in Proverbs 17:1, "Better a dry crust with peace and quite than ahouse full of feasting, with strife."

Good relationship are so important.

This past weekend was an example of that for me.

Christie and Becky came down to see George's play.

My favorite moments? Moments that are meaningful for me?

Talking with Becky for about 10 minutes in the kitchen about her life and what's going on at Michigan State and then taking her out to the Red Lobster for her birthday with her mom.

Taking a walk with Christie and hearing about Grand Rapids and what's going on there, and then having a dinner with her and Debbie Saturday evening.

Watching George's musical on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Seeing the joy that he brought into people's lives as he performed.

Being continually reinforced by Debbie of how much she loves me.

The cost of a dinner at Red Lobster? Around 35 dollars.

The cost of a meal at hom with Christie? Probably around 15 dollars.

The cost of the musical for three night? Around 30 dollars.

The cost of being with my family and knowing that they love me and I love them? Priceless.

And for that I am thankful.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Power of prayer

In Point Man, Steve Farrar tells the story of George McCluskey. When McCluskey married and started a family, he decided to invest one hour a day in prayer, because he wanted his kids to follow Christ. After a time, he expanded his prayers to include his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Every day between 11 a.m. and noon, he prayed for the next three generations.

As the years went by, his two daughters committed their lives to Christ and married men who went into full-time ministry. The two couples produced four girls and one boy. Each of the girls married a minister, and the boy became a pastor. The first two children born to this generation were both boys. Upon graduation from high school, the two cousins chose the same college and became roommates.

During their sophomore year, one boy decided to go into the ministry. The other didn't. He undoubtedly felt some pressure to continue the family legacy, but he chose instead to pursue his interest in psychology. He earned his doctorate and eventually wrote books for parents that became bestsellers. He started a radio program heard on more than a thousand stations each day. The man's name was James Dobson. Through his prayers, George McCluskey affected far more than one family.

May you be blessed with powerful prayers for your family this day....

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Qualifying pain

One of the things I am learning is that you can't qualify pain.

Many times we fall into the trap of comparing our pain with others. I know I have.

We can feel ashamed because we know that our pain is nothing compared to somebody in Sudan who is holding their starving kids, just trying to stay alive.

That is tragic. We hurt for those who hurt.

Yet, here's what I am learning. All pain is pain. You can't measure it on a scale and rate how "worthy" or "unworthy" it is.

While there are times when we do need a reality check as to our reaction to the pain in our lives, we must never rush to qualify our pain.

I can't compare my situation with anyone else.

The one thing I do know. All pain leads us to God. A dependence upon Him. It takes us in prayer from trying to get God to do what we want to seeing it as our way of being in on what God is doing - and just hanging on.

May you sense God entering into your pain this day.....

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Last words

"If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting?"

In the movie "Love Actually", Hugh Grant's character makes the observation, "When the planes hit the twin towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge. They were all messages of love."

Many of us spend too much time thinking of things we'd like to say -- how we would like to tell so-and-so what we really think about him/her and how he/she needs to get his/her life in order.

Or we think of things we wished we'd said -- we always think of a snappy comeback about a month after the occasion to use it has passed, don't we? But that doesn't prevent us from rehearsing it, just in case we get another chance.

Instead, we should be thinking of things we ought to say -- such as "I love you," "I thank God for you," "You're special to me," "You make a difference in my life," "I appreciate you."

The first chapter of Philippians gives us a good example to follow. Paul says, "Every time I think of you, I gives thanks to God for you." "I always pray for you and I make my requests with a heart full of joy." "It is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a very special place in my heart."

More than likely, today isn't your last day on planet earth. But don't use that as an excuse to put off saying that most important thing to one who needs to hear it.

By the way, you're looking good today!

Monday, November 13, 2006

My father's love

The one thing that I deeply appreciate about God as my Father is that He always loves me. He can never love me any more or less than he does right now.

When I am really burning on all cylinders and my walk with Him is strong, He loves me.

When I am disobedient My Father still loves me.

In fact, I have learned in life that those who need God's love the most are those who feel the most unloved and are the most in need of love. And God never fails to reach out to them.

The father in the story of the prodigal son show this. He runs out to welcome his son, with a hug and some kisses. He then offers the disobedient one the best robe, the ring, and the sandals. Finally he throws a party.

Wow. The love of God. Unconditional. Always there. Always willing. Always perfect.

We judge, we throw out opinions like we do so much bathwater, but God is there. Loving us. Caring for us. Never leaving us.

Father, help us to love as you love us. Forgive us for our judgmentalism and critical spirit. Let us express your love to those around us this day. Amen.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The importance of teamwork

The two most memorable plays Terrell Owens has made for the Dallas Cowboys are two he didn't make: a fourth-down drop that short circuited a rally against the New York Giants, and a deep, sure touchdown pass he dropped against Washington.

His most memorable touchdown celebration? A nap that cost 15 yards against the Redskins.

I just shake my head.

The question is: Is talent worth all the grief that he is giving the Cowboy organization? Would they have a record of 4-4 without him? Or would they be better?

How important is personality and chemistry to a team?

I think it is very, very important.

I would rather work with someone who gets along with everyone than with someone who was extremely gifted and couldn't get along with anyone.

More and more, when we look for new staff or ministry leaders, I am convinced that character is more important than natural talent and even spiritual giftedness.

I would rather have great chemistry (i.e. the Detroit Tigers), than great talent (i.e. the New York Yankees) any day.

My only guess is that winning is so important to Jerry Jones that he is willing to sacrifice integrity, teamwork and class to get it.

Come on, Jerry, trade him or release him. You might not make the playoffs anyway, so why not build a "team" instead of "group."

Just a thought.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Patience - fruit of the spirit

I voted yesterday. So did a lot of people. Apparently, I went at the same time as many others. The line was all the way out the door.

The fruit of the spirit of patience was called into question.

I said nothing.

But, as per my personality, I was standing there thinking of ten different ways we could have voted more efficiciently.

Am I the only one who has thought of the idea of having touch-screen computers set up where all you have to do it to touch the screen to vote for the candidate of your choice?

And isn't there a better way to sign in than having three older ladies (who were voluntering - God bless em) there (who are in all their glory - I overheard one lady say, "I better quit talking and start working - oh really?)to sign us in?

The lady at the end reminded me of my 3rd grade writing teacher. It took her "forever" to write my name.....

Come on America, let's change the way we vote...enough of this stuff....

If you have read this entirely, thanks for listening.....

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Living deeply for God

Do you desire to draw closer to God? Of course you do. In fact, I know you do.

Anais Nin said, "People living deeply have no fear of death." I like that idea. I'm not sure how he would define "living deeply" -- but I have found it in living with Jesus as the center of my life and the focus of my efforts.

The longer I'm engaged in living the Christian life, the more central he becomes. This seems so obvious that it sounds ridiculous, but the fact is that sometimes devotion to Jesus is overlooked in our efforts to get his work done.

Here's an axiom that I constantly come back to as I minister: I must live for God and not ministry. My love for God must be at the forefront - for I can't give what I don't have.

Ted Haggard's fall is a terrible, horrible blow both to him, his family, and the kingdom.

Only he and the personal demons that he fights can explain why.

My reaction has been not, "how could he," but, "Lord help me to continue to put you at the forefront of my life." "Help me to not become so busy with ministry that I lose sight of you."

Remember Mary and Martha? Martha was distracted by all that had to be done while Mary sat at Jesus' feet, listening to what he said.

When Martha objected, the Lord said, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42)

I love serving Jesus. I love doing the job he has called me to do. But I want to see if I can, like Mary, make a habit of choosing that which is better. In addition to doing his work, I want to learn to sit at his feet and hear his voice.

This is something Paul had undoubtedly learned to do; it's why he was able to say, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." He was a tireless worker, but he also knew how to live deeply in the presence of Jesus

Monday, November 06, 2006

Being a mentor

I am on a quest. It's a quest to make a difference. I'm learning that making a difference doesn't mean that I need to pastor the biggest church in the county or state.

All I need to do is influence one. Let's call it the "influence of one."

My goal is to influence one person each day, each month, each year. If I can do that, if I can pour my life into one person (or two or three), than that one person can influence two others, and two others can influence six others and, well, you get the idea.

I encourage us all to look around us and seek out those whom we can influence. Would to God (I say that as a prayer) that the older men in our church and in the kingdom would recognize this. On the one hand I can't fault anyone for I know that we all have life issues to deal with.

But the irony is that it's in the midst of dealing with life issues that we are the most effective in ministry. It's when we are hurting the most that we influence the most in our lives. It's called "ministering through pain."

Some in the midst of pain want to withdraw, to withdraw from ministry, until their suffering is over. Yet, God calls us all to be "wounded healers," as Henri Nouwen writes.

How do I seek out someone to mentor?

First of all, recognize the need to be a mentor. Let's take teenagers as an example.

On a regular basis, this generation of young people is faced with things we could have never anticipated. The increasing level of influence society has on them is continually justified while the teenagers of today are slipping farther and farther out of the grasp of the church.

It is going to take concerned adults like you to rescue them from the clutches of the enemy that is luring them away ever so subtly. What can we do? What does this generation really need? This generation needs you. It needs you to be a mentor.

You may ask, “How can I do anything to help a teenager or someone in need? I don’t even know how to talk to them!” Believe it or not, teens are ready and waiting to get to know adults that care for them. Here are a few tips that you can use to get started.

Be real... If your life isn’t a cake walk, don’t pretend that it is. Show teens how to respond to difficult situations. Often, we feel pressured to act as if our life is perfect, making us seem incredibly un-relatable. Teens have an uncanny sense of knowing when you are being fake. If you are not real with them, they have no reason to be real with you. Teens can feel intimidated by people who seem perfect, but they are willing to open up to those who are transparent.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood... Remember, God gave us two ears and one mouth; listen more than you talk. In his book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey writes, “…unless I open up with you, unless you understand me and my unique situation and feelings, you won’t know how to advise or counsel me. What you say is good and fine, but it doesn’t quite pertain to me.”

It is easy to counsel through your own autobiography, forgetting that things today are not quite the same as when you were a teenager. In fact, each teenager’s story is different than your own. Learn to listen before telling them how it is.

Don’t pretend you have all of the answers... If you don’t know the answer, don’t allow yourself to be intimidated. Rather, find the answer together. Pray and search scripture together. Investigate the issue even further by reading a book together on the topic. The key is not knowing all the answers, but knowing how to find them

Walk the talk... Stephen Covey also writes, “The real key to your influence with me is your example, your actual conduct. Your example flows naturally out of your character or the kind of person you truly are—not what others say you are or what you may want me to think you are. It is evident in how I actually experience you.”

The way you privately and publicly live your life is the foundation of your influence on a young person. If the two contradict, then the relationship you are attempting to build will crumble. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Mark 3:25)

Once you’ve identified someone to mentor, remember this: You can’t take someone anywhere that you haven’t been before. Don’t let that intimidate you, but let it encourage you to go places with the Lord you’ve never been before. Then, show them how to get there, too.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Years ago a friend of mine by the name of Jay Littlefield was reading a book by Catholic theologian Hans Kung called "On Being A Christian." It is 709 pages long.

What's ironic is that it does not include a chapter, or even an index entry, on the subject of prayer. Hans Kung later said that he regretted the oversight; he was so stressed about meeting his publisher's deadline that he simply forgot about it.

I don't see how such an omission could be made, but I can think of something even worse: the omission of prayer in our daily lives. We get busy, we get stressed, and we overlook the most important aspect — and certainly the greatest privilege — in the life of a follower of God.

When it comes to prayer, there are two important directives from Scripture to remember: Pray about everything (Philippians 4:6) and Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Don't let pressure, stress, deadlines, or frustration keep you from praying. As these things increase, increase your prayers. How things turn out is in God's hands, as always, but we have one guarantee: "If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand." (Philippians 4:7 NLT)

As you read this, why not have a conversation with God...right now...this moment....

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


What drives you?

What gives you passion?

What motivates you?

What gets you going full bore at anytime of the day?

It's hard to fully understand everything that drives us. Kant said that it's the "insatiable desire to possess and rule."

William James said we're driven by the need "to gain, keep, or recover happiness."

Alexander Pope said that self-love is the "spring of motion."

Former President Lyndon B. Johnson said "Sex and envy are the greatest drives in life." Former President Nixon said, "People react to fear, not love. They don't teach that in Sunday School, but it's true."

Maybe French Philosopher La Rochefoucald nailed it when he said that we would be embarrassed by our best deeds "if the world were to see all their underlying motives."

Solomon wrote, "All of a man's ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart." (Proverbs 21:2) This reminds us of Jeremiah's words, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)

I am in the process of learning to stop trying to determine what motivates others.

You see, here's the question of the day: I have trouble reading the intentions of my own heart; how can I judge what drives someone else?

Maybe our attention shouldn't be consumed with "what drives them" — it should be directed to: "What drives me? Are the desires of my heart molded into the desires of God's heart?"

David's prayer was "Create in me a pure heart." (Psalm 51:10)

He understood that his motives were a mixed bag, sometimes leading to greatness, sometimes leading to disaster. And he understood that his heart needed to be made new by the power of God's mercy.

I am learning that we can't afford to waste our time second-guessing that which only God can judge and only God can change. Instead, we must make a habit of laying our own hearts on the altar, asking God to redeem and purify our motives — and to use us in spite of who we are, not because of who we are.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Rob Bell on the church

Let me give you a thought from Rob Bell (Velvet Elvis):

The church does not exist for itself; it exists to serve the world. It is not ultimately about the church; it’s about all the people God wants to bless through the church. When the church loses sight of this, it loses its heart.

This is especially true today in the world we live in where so many people are hostile to the church, many for good reason. We reclaim the church as a blessing machine not only because that is what Jesus intended from the beginning but also because serving people is the only way their perceptions of church are ever going to change.

This is why it is so toxic for the gospel when Christians picket and boycott and complain about how bad the world is. This behavior doesn’t help. It makes it worse. It isn’t the kind of voice Jesus wants his followers to have in this world. Why blame the dark for being dark? It is far more helpful to ask why the light isn’t as bright as it could be.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Staying in tune with the Holy Spirit

I was sent a powerful quote last week by R.T. Kendall, former pastor of Westminster Chapel in London.

He writes this in his book, "The anointing," and I quote: "The greatest opposition to what God is doing today comes from those who were on the cutting edge of what God was doing yesterday."


Is that correct...and why?

I would say, yes, it's been my experince that many times those who stand in direction opposition to what God is doing today, were on the cutting edge of what God was doing yesterday.

It's ironic that those who stood strong in the face of opposition to the way God moved in the past are the very ones who dig in their heels to how God is moving in the present.

But why?

Wow...what do you think?

Is it because the memories of God's moving in a certain way are so precious to us that we long to keep those memories alive?

Is it because in the midst of God's moving in our lives in the past, it sparked a very natural human emotional response and we long for that same kind of response?

I know that music is powerful. I can hear a song on the radio, and most of the time give you a story about a time when that song was very meaningful in my life.

Some tunes bring back great memories of when Debbie and I first dated.

Some tunes bring back memories of high school.

Well, you get the idea.

And some Christian tunes bring back memories of a time when God worked in my life in the past.

So, is there a possiblity that we begin to rely, not on what God is doing in our lives in the present, but on the emotional memories that we have of what God did in the past, and the songs that bring that to mind?

My prayer is that I will continually, until the day I physically die, be open to what God desires to do in my life and in the lives of those around me in the present.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

are you being tested - part quatre

Well, I trust that this week on the subject of testing has shown us all that the trials we go through are for a purpose.

God tests us to succeed. Satan tempts us to fail.

Again, David writes, "Test me, O Lord...examine my heart and my mind." Psalms 26:2

Let's look at three other tests that God uses to develop us.

There's the test of small things - when we are asked to do something that is "beneath" our ability and potential.

It shows what kind of a servants heart we have. Jesus said in Mark 10:45, "for the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."

He also said, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much." (Luke 16:10)

One of the frustrating things I deal with is the idea that comes from time to time to faithful, godly people in the kingdom. They feel God leading them to "go into the ministry."

First of all, they ARE in the ministry. Everyone is a minister. But secondly, if it is really God calling us into some kind of full-time ministry, he watches to see how faithful we are right now with the ministry we have.

That leads us to another test - the motive test.

It's the test that examines our hearts to see if we are doing the right things, for the right reasons.

For instance, it's good to pray.

It's right.

Yet Jesus warns, "When you pray, don't be like the hypocrites, for they be seen by men."

What's frustrating is that sometimes WE don't even know why we do certain things. That's why we need the mirror of God's Word.

When you and I stand before Christ to be evaluated and rewarded, the question will not just be WHAT did you do, but WHY did you do it?

Why are you doing what you do?

Great question.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

are you being tested - part trois

Let's take a look at some more tests:

There is the wilderness test.

Have you ever felt spiritually dry with a low joy level in your walk with God?

Perhaps you are not even thinking about it....why not sit back this evening and ask yourself - did I feel God's presence today? Did I hear God speak to me?

The wilderness test reveals our ability (or lack thereof) to handle adversity and change, and as a result we enter into a new level of growth and spirituality.

The Bible tells us in Deuteronomy 8:15,16, "He led you through the vast and dreadful you so that in the end it might go well with you."


There is the authority test.

Oh, my, but this is a hard one.

Before Paul took the Gospel to the Gentiles he first went to Jerusalem and submitted his plan to the apostles, asking for their blessing with a "Nobody is going to tell me what to do" attitude.

God placed David under a flawed leader called Saul.

It's not very healthy when your boss wants to kill you - to take you out.

But here's the principle:

You can learn as much from the mistakes of a failure as you can from the achievements of a success.

Only someone who can follow can be a truly great leader.

Do you chafe under the leadership of your boss today? Realize that the person is in your life for a purpose, and that you will learn far more about leadership and about yourself from them than you will from anybody else.

That's hard, because many times, our boss is someone who either worked with us or for us in the past. I have found that people tend to take on the personality of their position. Someone who was once a friend and confidant can become a personal relational challenge because of their new role and their response to that role.

Yet, again, God has the person in our lives for a purpose.

Tough medicine I know...sometimes the cure can be harder than the disease....but healthy and necessary.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

are you being tested - part deux

Test come into our lives in different ways and forms. I don't like it when the come, but they do.

One of the tests that we struggle with in the kingdom is the "offense test." Jesus said, "Offenses will come."

We must be prepared, daily, to recognize that at work, at home, at school, wherever we may be, offenses will come.

So what is your tendency when an offense comes - when you are "offended?"

Do you get mad and hold it in and become bound by the person and their offense toward you? Do you let their bondage become your bondage?

Do you try to get even and make the situation worse?

Or do you get over it by practicing forgiveness?

Jesus said, "If you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."

Then there is the warfare test.

This test is for those who say that they are strong in the faith, but struggle when temptations and trials come their way.

The Bible tells us in Exodus 13:17, "When Pharaoh let the people go, God didn't lead them on the road through the Philistine coutnry, though that was shorter. For God said, "If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt."

If God has called you to a goal, a mission in life (and He has), it's worth fighting for! So, toughen up!

It's a battlefield, not a bed of roses.

All of us must engage the enemy each day using every spiritual weapon we have.

Satan is out to steal every God-given blessing you have:

Your identity, testimony, integrity, family, calling and your future.

This test demonstrates your ability to continue in your vision even while you're experincing disappointment and opposition.

So remember this:


Monday, October 23, 2006

Are you being tested?

David writes in Psalms 26:2, "Test me, O Lord...examine my heart and mind."

Do you like a test? Most of us don't.

Test show what we have learned in life. Test show what we know and what we don't know. They are opportunities to express our maturity and our potentional.

Here are some things I'm learning about tests:

1. During different seasons of my life tests come - as I grow in God.

2. Our goal, when the tests come is to pass them, otherwise God will allow circumstances to come into our lives that will have us keep on taking THE SAME TEST until we pass it.

3. A test passed brings great reward. It shows that you and I are ready to receive God's blessing. It shows that we are ready and able to handle God's promotions.

4. I must always wait upon divine promotion rather than self-promotion. I can't rush ahead of God - many times I must WAIT and for God to open the door.

5. We can be used until we have been tested.

6. God tests us to succeed, Satan tempts us to fail.

The tests that God allows (or sends in our lives depending upon your theology) are there to help us reach the full potential that he has for us. God's not some hard-hearted parent who enjoys seeing us suffer through the trials of life. But for us to be used greatly, we must be ready for what lies ahead.

Most of God's tests are about our character.

Is God testing you today? Know that there is a purpose. More on this tomorrow.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Radical Islam's war against the west

I just watched a one hour movie documentary called, "obsession, Radical Islam's war against the west."

It's powerful. (You can find it at

The basic themes are:

Islam is out to control the world.

Radical Islam is out to control the world through jihad.

There is a distinct comparison between the fascism of Nazi Germany and radical Islamic beliefs.

We must not react in the same way that Prime Minister Chamberlain (England) did in World War II by ignoring the reality of the fight.

It is a clash between two civilizations and cultures. It is a clash between good versus evil in the sense that the radical element of Islam is against Christianity. It desires to destroy the Christian faith through acts of terrorism and fear.

While our role as followers of Christ is to share God's love with Muslims on an individual basis, we must also participate at the same time in being aware of the fact that Muslim extremists are out to terrorize and control the world through violence and fear. We must not be naive.

All of this, I believe, is leading us into the last years of the end times. How much more can our globe take? The world is ripe for one man, one leader, to stand up and say, "this is the way we should go!"

No one seems to have the answers. Everyone is looking for solutions.

Even so, come Lord Jesus, come!


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Believing prayer for a friend

When a believing person prays, great things happen.

In Mark 2:3-5, it states, "Four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn't get to Jesus through the crowd, so they dug through the clay roof above his head...They lowered the sick man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, My child, your sins are forgiven."

The word "prayer" doesn't show up once in this story. But if you look closely you will see it in action; four men lowering their sick friends through the roof into the presence of Jesus.

What does Jesus do? He stops preaching, looks at the man and then announces, "Your sins are forgiven."


What moved Jesus?

Mark says, "seeing their faith."

The faith of 4 friends is the trigger that releases God's power.

The man has no movement, not treatment, no answers, and no hope.

All he had were friends who took the time to bring their friends into the presence of Jesus.

The paralytic might be gulping - "don't drop me"!

The homeowner might be groaning - "who put a hole in my roof"?

But Jesus - he's smiling!

Their faith stirs his spiritual power.

Jesus heals the man.

The man leaves whole in body and soul.

When a believing person prays, great things happen.

Do you have a friend in need?

Faithful friends carry those they love in prayer, into God's presence.

And when they do God responds.



The four guys didn't know. And we don't know either, but we know this.

When a believing person prays, great things happen."

So be that kind of friend today. Bring them to Jesus in prayer.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Dealing with storms

I don’t like storms. Trials. Problems. None of us do.

Yet each day we are faced with circumstances that are beyond us. Jesus said that “each day has enough trouble of its own.”

One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake.” So they get into a boat and set out. Jesus fell asleep. A storm came. The storm was so ferocious that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

Even though the disciples were experienced fishermen, they were scared.

Mark’s version of this story says that the disciples woke Jesus up and said, “Master, don’t you care if we drown?”

Jesus gets up, rebukes the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsides and all is calm. He turns around to the men and says, “Where is your faith?”

Are you going through a storm today? Know this:

Sometimes Jesus leads us into a storm. It was Jesus who said, “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake.” Problems and trials are allowed in our lives to help us to grow, to teach us to depend upon God and to help us keep God central in our lives.

Jesus does care about what you are going through. While it may seem like the Master is asleep and that God doesn’t care – he does. He’s very aware of what you are going through today.

A retired United Methodist pastor by the name of Jones lived through Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi.

His daughter had been begging him to drive to Atlanta and stay with her in the storm's aftermath. There was only one problem: He didn't have any money. He had money in the bank, but it wasn't open. They were penniless. He couldn't get to Atlanta. He had no place to go.

When the hurricane came, he and his wife left their home and went to a shelter. After the storm had passed, they were allowed back into the city to grab a few belongings. When they entered the house, the water was still knee high, but Pastor Jones was determined to see what he could salvage.

As he went into his flooded house, he saw several framed family photos floating in the water. He really didn't see anything else to save, so he grabbed the pictures and left. Back at the shelter, he took the photos out of their frames so they could dry out. When he removed his father's picture, money fell out of the frame. He couldn't believe his find as he counted out $366. Even more astounding was the fact that his father had died in 1942.

Pastor Jones was only 12 years old at the time. He had no idea that the money was in the frame. He doesn't know how it got there or when it was put there, but it was enough to pay for him and his wife to make their way to Atlanta.

Jesus can calm your storm. Come to him today. Trust in Him. Depend upon Him. Relax in His presence. God is in control.

Devotional prayer: Father, today I give you my trials and problems. They are overwhelming, but I trust in you. Help me to know that you are in control. Amen.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Being negative on the negative of the political system

It's the time of year where the country if focused on the 2006 elections that are taking place.

The democratic system of government has proven itself to be the most excellent way of governing peoples and nations since the beginning of mankind.

As with anything, however, there are positives and negatives.

The negative, if you will permit me, is the constant negative campaigning that takes place on a regular basis now.

I hear grown men and women point fingers like children on a playground. "It was him," "no, it was you!" "Did not." "Did so." "He did it." "No, she did it."

I know that you know, or I think that you know, that if you look at anyone's life, and I mean anyone's life you can find flaws and inconsistencies.

Every politician pretends to take the high road.

And yet, where does the fault actually lie?

Would these men and women keep on acting like spoiled children if we didn't pay attention to it?

Maybe we should all take the elections off. Boycott them all and let each politician wrestle the other politician in a pit of mud.

That way, they would go beyond the metaphor of "mudslinging," and actually duke it out in the mud itself.

Just a thought.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Life is short

Corey Lidle died yesterday in a small plane crash in Manhattan. He was 34 years old with a wonderful wife and child. A professional baseball player. I understand him to be a great person.

Life is short.

Psalm 90 tells us:

From Everlasting to Everlasting
A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.

1Lord, you have been our dwelling place[a]
in all generations.

2Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

3You return man to dust
and say, "Return, O children of man!"[b]

4For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.

5You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning:

6in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.

7For we are brought to an end by your anger;
by your wrath we are dismayed.

8You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.

9For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

10The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span[c] is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.

11Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?

12So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.

13Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!

14Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

15Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.

16Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.

17Let the favor[d] of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!

The psalmist writes that life is short:

Like yesterday when it passes by (verse 4)
As a watch in the night (verse 4)
like sprouts and withers (verses 5,6)
Like a sigh (verse 9)
Soon it is gone (verse 10)

Life is short but life is also uncertain. We just don't know do we.

A single adjective could precede almost every event in our future:


Life is uncertain.

Life is challenging

Because it's short and uncertain we are faced on a daily basis with making adjustments and keeping our perspective whole and eternal.

Rather than these thoughts being negative, I look upon them as positive, for they help us keep everything in perspective.

What is your perspective today? Are your mired in the present and the temporary? Or do you every now and again lift up your head and look around and see that in the whole scheme of things it's not quite as important as we think it is?

Don't sweat the small stuff and everything is small stuff!

Live in the present with gusto, knowing that life is short, uncertain and challenging.

Just some thoughts for a snowy day.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Remembering names

Are you good at remembering names?

Sometimes I am, sometimes I'm not. I'm not so good at remembering someone's name if I haven't seen them in a while and I see them out of the context I normally saw them in.

I really admire people like Charles Schwab who knew the names of all 8,000 of his employees at Homestead Mill...Or Charles W. Eliot who, during his forty years as president of Harvard, earned the reputation of knowing all the students by name each year.

I grew up as a youngster with a pastor by the name of Philip Wannamacher. Having moved in and out of Springfield, Missouri 5 different times in my younger days, Pastor Wannamacher saw me at different stages of my life.

He saw me as a boy.
He saw me as a teenager.
He saw me as a college student.
He saw me as a seminary student.
He saw me as a missionary, based in Springfield.

Each time that we met over the years, he would always say, "hey, George, how are you doing?" Each time that he saw me I had changed in some way.

He had a gift for remembering names.

Most of us don't have that gift...And if you do...Rejoice!

I've recently read that the time to remember someone's name is the very brief period of time when we stand face to face with them.

When we meet someone, we are to remind ourselves of two things:

1. The person is important
2. God has arranged your meeting for some purpose.

Some tips on remembering names.

1. Impressions. Allow the name to make an impression on your memory bank.

Repeat the persons name while you are talking to them. If necessary, spell it to the person, asking if that is the correct spelling. Get the exact pronunciation.

2. Association. Think of an association you can link with the name. Visualize the name and think of something that sounds like it or rhymes with it. For instance, John Lincoln (He is tall like president Lincoln)." Marlene Moody (she is sad-looking..moody").

3. Repetition. As you talk with the person, use their name frequently in the conversation. You might introduce the individual to others in the group, and again distinctly repeat the name.

Of course, what's really cool is that God remembers my name. When we are ushered into heaven, we will be given new names....A new name written down in glory!

By the way, what's your name again?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Trusting in God

I like to play basketball, watch football on T.V. and watch baseball in person.

Like all sports, there are many analogies that we can apply to our Christian lives. All of life, H.I. Ironside once said, illustrates Biblical truth.

The recent AL Divisional playoffs come to mind.

According to the experts, the Yankees were supposed to win the series. In fact, according to the experts, the Yankees were supposed to win it all this year.

Think of all they had going for them: They had the best record this season; they won 97 games. They had the largest payroll in the history of baseball; the average player salary is $10 million a year. And they have the best players in baseball; this year 9 Yankees — virtually their entire lineup — made the all star team.

The Detroit Tigers, on the other hand, were just three years past setting the AL record for most losses in a season; many of the players on the current roster were on that team. It’s an inexperienced club; 18 Tigers had never seen postseason play. This was supposed to be a building year for coach Jim Leyland. They didn’t expect to make it this far.

There's no telling how much further the Tigers will go. As for the Yankees, it's clear that their oversized payroll and impressive roster didn’t take them where their owner, George Steinbrenner, thought it would. Some things can never take the place of the will to win.

In the same way, too often we put our trust in the wrong assets. We expect money to bring us peace of mind, relationships to bring us happiness, possessions to bring us satisfaction. It never works, at least not for long.

In the ministry, we sometimes expect a better property to attract new people, or better PA equipment to make the worship more dynamic, or a power point presentation to improve the preaching. These things are all good — we should use them when we can — but they’ll never take the place of power of God.

David said, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." (Psalm 20:7)

What are the chariots and horses in your life? What things do you look to for fulfillment instead of looking to God?

This week, every time you catch yourself lamenting your lack of money, your lack of personnel, your lack of resources — remember David's words. And remember the New York Yankees. You already have the asset you most need in order to do the work God has called you to do: you have his power on your side.

Wallace Johnson, founder of the Holiday Inn, said: "I am totally dependent on God for help in everything I do. Otherwise I honestly believe I would start to fall apart in months."

This is where every Christian, and certainly every minister, needs to be: fully dependent on the power and the provision of God to get through every challenge and meet every opportunity.

Monday, October 09, 2006


Have you listened to the news or to talk radio lately? I tend to be a news junkie like a lot of people, but it's getting crazy out there.

The one thing I've noticed is that people are getting really heavy handed when it comes to labeling others.

THEY are Republicans. THEY are democrats. THEY are conservatives. THEY are liberals.

And it always helps that when people speak of THEY, they speak with authority, sounding pious and being very dogmatic.

Yet do we not do the same thing in the kingdom?

There are temperament labels. She's a choleric...Married to a melancholic!

There are emotional labels. "Well, you know her, she's the nervous type." or, "He's a classic neurotic, a perfectionist to the core."

And then there are doctrinal labels. I always cringe when someone calls me a fundamentalist (especially when they don't know what it means).

Or even Pentecostal. It's so limiting.

"Well, I am a pretribulational, rapture believing, premilllenialist, dispensationalist." Well, whoopty-do.

Sticking a label on something saves time and can sometimes give a fairly clear mental pictures. Yet the main danger in giving labels is that it limits the perception of someone to one area of their lives.

We are far more complex than that. And we are growing. Outside of my strong beliefs in the basics of the gospel, some of my views have changed over the years.

I think you will agree with me that we are not the same today as we were even last week. And that is as it should be.

So don't label me. And Holy Spirit, help me to not label others.

Being alert and discerning, basing our opinions on the absolute truth is a sign of maturity.....But pasting labels on people and churches and schools with only partials facts, feelings, and opinions to back those statements up is worse than unfair...It's un-Christian.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

How does God's timelessness affect prayer?

I read something today in a new book by Philip Yancey on prayer. It stopped me instantly while I was reading. I am still chewing on the concept.

God is timeless. He is beyond time. We experience time in sequence. There is a beginning a middle and an end. With God there is no sequential time. He is timeless.

Yancey writes this...Chew on this and let me know what you think.

"How does God's timelessness affect prayer? C.S. Lewis decided it altogether reasonable to pray at noon for a medical consultation that might have been conducted at ten o'clock as long as we do not know the final result before we pray. "The event certainly has been decided - in a sense it was decided 'before all worlds.' But one of the things taken into account in deciding it, and therefore one of the things that really cause it to happen, may be this very prayer that we are not offering." Lewis notes such a notion would be less shocking to modern scientists than to nonscientists."

The implication of this to me are astounding. If I am understanding Lewis right, I can pray for something that has already taken place, and see God's hand move as long as I don't know the answer to my prayer in the present.

Any thoughts?

Solving problems part 2

We all have problems.

Next to the Law of Gravity, one of the most inescapable universal truths is undoubtedly Murphy's Law: "If anything can go wrong, it will -- and at the worst possible moment."

A wide-ranging set of principles and corollaries have sprung up that make Murphy look like an optimist. When the Murphologists began looking at the church, here were some of their observations:

The year's lowest attendance occurs when the district superintendent makes a surprise visit.

Members living 15 miles away will be 15 minutes early; members living two blocks away will be 15 minutes late.

Film projectors work only before the service begins (we might update that with power point presentations).

When all five points of the sermon begin with the same letter, people don't even remember the letter.

Saying "Let us pray" or singing "Just As I Am" causes babies to cry.

When you're right, nobody remembers; when you're wrong, nobody forgets.

The previous pastor is to blame for everything wrong in the church -- until his successor leaves.

Nothing is so bad that it can't be made worse by changing pastors.

The shorter the agenda the longer the meeting.

No matter how many show up for choir practice, you need one more copy of the music.

Arguments for tabling a motion are always better than those for taking a vote.

Church furnaces and air conditioners rest on Sunday.

Absent choir members all sing the same part.

Concern for needy people increases with distance.

Car problems, overtime traffic, and sick headaches increase on visitation night.

Door-to-door visitation is most enjoyed when no one is home.

None of us really care to face our problems. To do so might mean confrontation, exposing some weakness in ourselves or others, time and even sacrifice.

Yet problems are to be faced - head on.

The longer we delay facing a problem, the bigger it will get.

Some people try to flee problems.

Others try to forget about them.

Others still try to fight them. They resist, but the problems still persist.

And finally some face them. They look at the problem realistically.

Another suggestion is to evaluate the problem.

Some problems can be solved instantly. Others take time. To discern the timing of the solution comes from experience (success/failure) and prayer.

We can embrace obstacles as opportunities.

They can be wakeup calls for creativity.

One idea that is helpful to me is to think of people who have bigger problems. For every problem that I have - there is always somebody with a bigger problem.

When a friend gets cancer or loses a loved one, then we are reminded of how petty our issues are.

Seek counsel from a friend (mentors, coaches).
Write down possible solutions.
Determine the best three ways to solve the problem. There is generally more than one way to solve the problem.

Pray. Pray. Pray.

I'm continually encouraged by the Holy Spirit's work in our lives when we take a problem to him in prayer.

Come Holy Spirit, we need you!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Solving problems

Yesterday was one of those days that started out with problems, continued with problems and ended with problems. Yet the positive side of it was that it began with a dark and gloomy forecast and ended with partly sunny skies (that a metaphor there gang).

One of my strengths is that I focus on a problem until it is solved. That can be a weakness as well if it takes your mind off other tasks that need to be tended to.

What are some ways to handle problems?

1. Define - what is a problem?

Let me give you a quote to chew on today. "A problem is something you can do something about. If you can't do something about it, then it's not a problem. It's a predicament."

A predicament is something that must be coped with, endured.

To quote John Maxwell, "when people treat a predicament as a problem, they can become frustrated, angry or depressed. They waste energy. They make bad decisions. And when people treat problems as predicaments, they often settle, give up, or see themselves as victims."

Then he goes on to give this illustration:

"If you are married, chances are that if you are a morning person, your spouse is a night person (or vice versa). That is a predicament. You can't change that. You can't change the way people are wired internally. If you try to, you and your spouse will experience lots of conflict, and there will be no resolution. However, your difficulty in findings ways to spend time together because of your different bents is a problem, and it CAN be solved."

2. Anticipate problems.

We really shouldn't be surprised when problems arise. We should be surprised when everything goes well.

Years ago Doc Dobbins told me this, "expect people to act in the flesh. When they act in a spiritual, godly manner, rejoice!"

A problem not anticipated is a problem. A problem anticipated is an opportunity.

Anticipating a problem is not negativity - it is being realistic - and there is a big, big difference.

I really struggle with this second point. But I am learning.

More tomorrow....

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


There are a few things in life that are certain. One of them is that we will have problems. They are unavoidable. Certain. They will come.

Problems are everywhere, and everybody has some.

If you are breathing you will have problems.

We can't make it through a day without problems.

Yet, here is what I am learning. Our perspective on the problem, not the problem itself, usually determines our success or failure.

I love the story of a man who stopped to watch a Little League baseball game. He asked one of the youngsters what the score was. "We're losing 18-0," was the answer.

"Well," said the man. "I must say you don't look discouraged."

"Discouraged?" the boy said, puzzled. "Why should we be discouraged? We haven't come to bat yet."

Sometimes we become so involved with a situation that it not only threatens to consume us (we obsess over it) but we become to close to the problem to understand it.

I like that.

Problems are not unsolvable, permanent and normal. Problems are solvable, temporary and a normal part of life.

Instead of problems making us bitter, controlling us or stopping us, problems can make us better, challenge us and stretch us.

And...In an ironic kind of way, problems, if handled correctly, can leave us better than we were before. They shape us and mold us into stronger, better, more effective people.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A great story

Seth and Cher sent me this story. It struck me as profound for several reasons.

It is a great story of relationally connecting people to Christ.

It shows the direction of ministry that we desire here at First Assembly.

It is biblical.

It is what's on my heart.

"Fellowship at the Table"

I once met a pastor in the hills of Colorado who invites family to his
rectory every Sunday afternoon for a home-cooked meal. Frequently the
guests are unchurched or exchurched. During my visit the fare was
simple but the company and conversation stimulating.

This family shared the deep hurt inflicted on them by a previous pastor and consequently had discontinued churchgoing. But that afternoon they received
consideration instead of expected condemnation, a merciful acquittal
rather than an anticipated verdict of guilty.

The returned to the worshiping community in the following week. The had been healed by an ordinary Sunday meal. Table-sharing with the pastor brought them into
fellowship with God.

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the
fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Acts 2:42

(Daily devotion from Reflections for Ragamuffins, by Brennan Manning.)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Longing for approval

Do you care what other people think of you? Of course you do. Deep down inside all of us is a desire to receive affirmation and praise from those around us.

In fact, I have found that those who sound off the loudest about "not caring about what other people think," are deep down inside longing for approval and affirmation from others.

Yet, desiring approval can become a habit and addiction in our lives. If we are not careful, it can cloud our judgement and cause is to live in fear.

John Ortberg has written, “Some people live in bondage to what others think of them. The addiction takes many forms. If we find ourselves often getting hurt by what others say we probably have it. If we habitually compare ourselves with other people, if we find ourselves getting competitive in the most ordinary situations, we probably have it. If we live with a nagging sense that we aren’t important enough or special enough, or we get envious of another’s success, we probably have it. If we keep trying to impress important people, we probably have it. If we are worried that someone might think ill of us should he or she find out we are an approval addict, we probably are. Like other addicts, we will go to great lengths to get a ‘fix’ when we feel desperate. Yet, like other addicts, we find that no fix lasts forever, so we keep coming back for more.”

Henri Nouwen puts this problem in perspective: ‘At issue here is the question: To whom do I belong? To god or to the world? Many of my daily preoccupations suggest that I belong more to the world than to God. A little criticism makes me angry, and little rejection makes me depressed. A little praise raise my spirits, and little success excites me...Often I am like a small boat on the ocean, completely at the mercy of its waves.’”

Good stuff. If I was going to spiritualize it (and its okay to do that) I would say that ultimately, the only person in the world I really need to seek approval from is God.

That is so true, especially in ministry. "Live for God," and not just for "ministry" I tell all of the interns who come to our church.

To whom do you long for approval from today?