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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Staying close to God

One of my prayerful desires is that we all seek to be used by God.

Napoleon Hill has written that, "the starting point of all achievement is desire."

Where does that desire come from? From staying close to God.

There's a principle here to remember: As Dwight L. Moody once said, "God always uses the man closest to him."

When I was in high school, I played basketball. When I was taken out of the game, I always liked to sit near the coach so that I would be close enough to him that when it came time to put someone else in, I was right there. He didn't have to look far to find me. That's how much I wanted to get back in and play the game.

God uses those who are eager to get into the game. That's why I want to make a habit of "sitting next to God" so to speak, so that when he's ready to use someone, he sees me first. I want always to be in a position where God can do something with my life.

Isaiah heard the voice of God saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And Isaiah responded, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8)

God is asking the same question today. He's looking for those who are to ready to be used in a great way. When he's searching the sidelines for someone to take the court, I want to be sitting close to him.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I don't really care for someone who thinks that they know all the answers in life. It just seems to rub me the wrong way. The older I get, the more I realize how much I have to learn. In fact, I desire to continue learning until the day I physically die.

Sometimes in our walk with God we think that we have to have all the answers to really believe, the really have faith, the really be a mature Christian.

Somehow I think God is more interested in the questions that we ask than in us knowing all the answers.

We in our western mindset are so concerned about keeping everything linear, everything in a box, everything understood, not realizing that in the first century time that Jesus walked on this planet, systematic theology was a foreign concept and knowledge was circular, many times explained by stories.

Stories to which people would ask questions.

Again, in the first century, the primary teaching method was one of questioning, and it is by far the most effective at imparting wisdom.

When Jesus was 12 and stayed back in Jerusalem, his mother found him with the teachers of the Law, who were amazed at His questions. In the rabbinical teaching style, the rabbi almost always answers a question with another question - which will ultimately lead to an answer.

The thought process is this - if you ask me a question and I give you my answer, it is my answer. If you hear another answer from someone else that you like better, there is no pain involved because their answer seems better than my answer. However, if you ask me a question and I, in turn ask you questions that lead you to an answer, it is then your answer, and you are much more likely to retain that when faced with alternatives.

Maybe, just maybe we need to become better at asking questions than providing answers.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A deeper walk with God

In my own pilgrimage with God, I have a deep desire to connect with Him outside of the confines of the established church. I have a long way to go.

My background, my history as a believer, lends itself to jumping over a huge hurdle of tying in my faith with my church.

And the two are both very, very important (not wanting to sound like a heretic there). Yet there is something deep within me that desires more in my relationship with God than what happens on Sunday morning.

And there must also be something more to my Christian experience with others than what happens on Sunday morning. That's why small groups (that meet in homes) are a creative and viable way of accomplishing this.

It gives a forum whereby relationships can be established without having to have an end result in mind. But we have relationships for relationship sake - as Christians.

There's an interesting story at Christianity Today about the American religious landscape. The 70 plus percent of Americans that call themselves Christians can be divided into 5 identifiable categories. Here's a quick summary. When you get a chance, read the article.

Active Christians 19%

● Believe salvation comes through Jesus Christ
● Committed churchgoers
● Bible readers
● Accept leadership positions
● Invest in personal faith development through the church
● Feel obligated to share faith; 79% do so.

Professing Christians 20%

● Believe salvation comes through Jesus Christ
● Focus on personal relationship with God and Jesus
● Similar beliefs to Active Christians, different actions
● Less involved in church, both attending and serving
● Less commitment to Bible reading or sharing faith

Liturgical Christians 16%

● Predominantly Catholic and Lutheran
● Regular churchgoers
● High level of spiritual activity
● Recognize authority of the church

Private Christians 24%

● Largest and youngest segment
● Believe in God and doing good things
● Own a Bible, but don't read it
● Spiritual interest, but not within church context
● Only about a third attend church at all
● Almost none are church leaders

Cultural Christians 21%

● Little outward religious behavior or attitudes
● God aware, but little personal involvement with God
● Do not view Jesus as essential to salvation
● Affirm many ways to God
● Favor universality theology

Which category do we "fit into" at Stone Church?

Just some thoughts

Monday, November 26, 2007

A global world

The map of global Christianity that our grandparents knew has been turned upside down. At the start of the 20th century, only ten percent of the world's Christians lived in the continents of the south and east.

Ninety percent lived in North America and Europe, along with Australia and New Zealand. But at the start of the 21st century, at least 70 percent of the world's Christians live in the non-Western world—more appropriately called the majority world.

More Christians worship in Anglican churches in Nigeria each week than in all the Episcopal and Anglican churches of Britain, Europe, and North America combined. There are more Baptists in Congo than in Britain.

More people in church every Sunday in communist China than in all of Western Europe. There are ten times more Assemblies of God members in Latin America than in the U.S.

We are truly becoming a global world in our faith.

That's one reason (amongst many) that I have already grown to love Stone Church. We didn't realize when we came that there are so many different nationalities represented here. And wasn't it cool to see all of the Nigerians celebrating with us yesterday?

I went to the social security office the other day and heard polish, spanish, arabic and a little english....great stuff!

Debbie and I feel right at home with the different cultures.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. We celebrate giving thanks to the Father, but it's also a day of fun, food, family and football.

What are you thankful for?

I am thankful for my children (and that includes my son-in-law) who are all serving God.

I am thankful for my wife, my best friend, my encourager and life companion.

I am thankful for the opportunity to serve and lead a wonderful church with a great staff and faithful leadership.

I am thankful for my good health, which I don't take lightly.

I am thankful for my relationship with God. He is so patient with me.

But this week, I am also extremely grateful for the opportunity to lead Stone Church into the future.

It has been said that in every man's lifetime is one great opportunity to do something great for God. That has already taken place in my life.

Now, God is giving me a second opportunity to do something great for Him. For that I am grateful.

I believe that within 15 years, we as a church will:

Build in Orland Park on 183rd Street
See our church grow numerically to 1500
Plant 4 churches
Give 1 million dollars a year to missions.

Now that's a great opportunity. My prayer is that you will take the journey with us.

Be blessed,


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Attitudes - part II

Let's continue to talk about reasons why some people live with a bad attitude:

The next one might surprise you - but it's true: sin.

sin in our lives. We are embarrassed that we did something or frustrated that we can't quit a bad habit or discouraged about ourselves because we did sin. Paul said, "that which I don't want to do I do and that which I do I don't want to do."

Some say, "Why even try? I'm going to fail anyway."

Criticism is another one. Everyone of us has experienced someone saying something hurtful to us. And if our attitude is not right we can try to strike back at them which never pays. Here's what I know: Whatever you do in life - there will be someone who will criticize.

These people are like the man who gathered with many others at the Hudson River to see the first steamship launched. He kept saying, "They'll never get her going. They'll never get her going." But they did. The steamship belched and moved out fast. Immediately the same man said, "They'll never get her stopped. They'll never get her stopped."

I love the Chinese proverb that states, "man who says it cannot be done," should not interrupt man who is doing it."

Discouragement can cause me to live with a bad attitude.

Liken Elijah we can find ourselves sitting underneath a juniper tree thinking that we are the only one serving God; the only one faithful.

Until God comes along and has to finally break through that place of discouragement
and say, "Wait a minute, many others are serving me as well."

Finally, fear of failure. You can become so gripped with the idea that you might fail that you sit in the dugout of life sucking your thumb - afraid to pick up the bat and go out and swing at the ball because you might strike out. The motto of the person who fears failure is, "If at first you don't succeed, destroy all the evidence you even tried."

More tomorrow....

Monday, November 19, 2007


This Sunday morning I am teaching on the subject of attitudes. Some thoughts about attitudes that will not be in my sermon.

Having a correct attitude can make or break a situation, a family, a job, and even a church (or should I say especially a church).

Why do some people have bad attitudes?

1. Problems. Problems can cause us to live with negative feelings toward life. We can begin to think t ourselves, "if only this problem wasn't here, If only I could get a better job, If only I could lose more weight, If only I could get out of debt."

And when that happens, when things don't take place in the way we think it should happen or in the time frame that it should happen it can give us a bad attitude.

2. Negativism. Someone once wrote that there are three types of people: those who make things happen, those who watch tings happen, and those who say, "what happened."

The destructive force behind negativism is that is is contagious. It blows everything out of proportion. It limits your potential.

3. Change. Something I have been blogging about a lot lately. We resist change, don't we. We are creatures of habit. We form habits and then we let our habits form us. We are what we repeatedly do.

When that is touched ti can give us a feeling of insecurity which can bring about a bad attitude.

Again, change doesn't bring growth, but growth means change.

More tomorrow.....

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Slinkys and the church

Han Finzel has written an excellent book entitled, "Change is like a Slinky".

Do you remember Slinkys? I know I do. The Slinky spring toy was one of my all-time favorites as a child.

He writes that change is a lot like a Slinky.

Why Change is like a slinky:

1. You have to take it out of the box to have fun with it.
2. It comes in many styles and colors.
3. Somebody has to launch it on its way.
4. The course it takes once it begins is entirely unpredictable.
5. It routinely gets stuck halfway down the stairs, and has to be relaunched. Repeat as necessary.
6. It is messy, noisy, and chaotic.
7. Before it is launched, it has stored potential energy - when launched, that energy force becomes kinetic energy.
8. You really don't control it once it begins it journey.
9. It rarely lands where you predict.

He writes, "A Slinky is one long continuous wire that loops around as it forms a long cylindrical tube. It is a two-inch stack of ninety-eight coils. Change is like that as well; it loops around and continually regenerates itself as an ever-spiraling process.....Change happens constantly. Leaders initiate it, but others cause it to happen just as often. The effective leader is the person who harnesses, then processes change for the good of the organization......Just like Slinky's endless metal loop, change goes in cycles. These cycles are like cyclones swirling throughout our organizations. Some are tiny, like the dirt devils we watched with fascination in a parking lot as young children - dirt and debris circling up and down and around, tracing an unpredictable path. Others are larger and can do more damage. One is fizzling out as the next is gaining steam. Like waves crashing on the beach, they just keep coming and cannot be controlled. Maybe this is why I also love watching the ocean. Something about waves and campfires...they are fun to stare at because now two waves or flames are ever alike."

Good stuff.

What changes would you like to see around Stone Church?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I heard Joe Torre being interviewed the other day (the former manager of the New York Yankees) and he was saying that there were two basic elements to his success as a manager in the big leagues:

1. The ability to lay aside grudges
2. The commitment to the team

Both are needed in church life.

Growing churches are healthy churches; filled with people who know and understand that living in forgiveness is not a one time act but a lifestyle of freely giving grace to those around us.

Growing church are also filled with people who are committed to the team.

Our culture has so ingrained us to be only concerned about our needs and our rights that we have forgotten or just plain out right don't pay attention to the teachings of Jesus. That it is as I give up my rights that I receive great blessing.

We are not called to focus in on our rights but our responsibilities.

Let me give you an illustration of this:

Certain ants in South and Central American rain forests will lie down in the potholes that stand between their army and food. Their bodies form a makeshift bridge, allowing other ants—sometimes numbering over 200,000—to make better time in getting to the source of nourishment.

This pattern in the life of ants was discovered through research done at England's University of Bristol. Researchers took a wooden plank and drilled different sized holes in it, simulating a narrow trail.

Ants would find holes equal to their size and lay down inside, letting others walk safely over them. When the raiding party accomplished its mission and was returning to its nest, the faithful few climbed out of their holes and followed the raiders home.

May the Father help us all to recommit ourselves to such faithfulness to His church and to the world around us

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Caring for others

One of my desires for Stone Church is that we continue to grow in the area of ministry outside our four walls.

I see that happening already! It goes back to the quote I used last Sunday night, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

One author expressed it like this:

"I had been praying regularly with the deacons for one of our members. His wife, Pat, attended our small congregation faithfully, but John hadn't been to church in years. So every Sunday afternoon before the evening service, we prayed for ways to communicate our commitment to John and his family.

It wasn't long before we received an answer. During the morning service one week, Pat told us through tears that John had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. A surgery was planned for the following week, and doctors were confident John would make a full recovery.

The bad news was John would be out of work for months. He drove a log truck and was paid by the mile. There was no way he could recover while spending ten hours a day in a bumpy eighteen-wheeler, but if he didn't drive, John and Pat didn't get a paycheck.

The congregation sprang immediately to action. There was no question whether the congregation would pitch in to support the family in their time of need. That afternoon in an emergency business meeting, we sat around a long folding table and our head deacon, a trucker himself, asked with his characteristic boldness, "How much can everyone give?" Some pledged $50 or $100 a month; one family committed to pay for utilities and another for groceries, whatever the cost. Beginning immediately, Anchor Baptist Church took responsibility for the wellbeing of one of its families. All bills were paid on time; there was a new supply of groceries on the front steps every weekend; some of the men made sure the lawn was mowed and other maintenance issues around the house were addressed.

John has since rejoined the congregation. Months after his surgery John testified on a Sunday morning that the church's tireless care of his family had convinced him that the congregation did not simply want another warm body in the seats or an extra dollar in the offering plate; they were committed to sharing their lives and resources with him unconditionally."

So true.....may we all reach out to those in need around us.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

New beginnings

Some thoughts from last Sunday night:

The beginning of any life change can be a make or break time.

Babies are most vulnerable during the first few hours of life; airplanes are more likely to crash on take-off than at any other time; marriages can be ruined for good in the first weeks or months of the relationship; and the vast majority of new businesses fail within their first year.

A good start is crucial.

How can we as pastor and church begin well?

Let's first of all face up to our past.

We all have things in our past that we are not proud of. Things we regret, things we cannot go back and change.

I know I do - and so do you. What's true individually is true corporately as well. Churches have events that have taken place in their past that they are not aware of.

We are at the end of a year long celebration of the history of Stone Church. We remember the 100 years not only to celebrate the good of what has happened but to remember and to learn from the negative events so that we won't repeat what has occurred in the past.

We must learn from the past - but we must not live in the past.

We must use failure to push us forward. Failure is never final unless we let it be.

I am not perfect. No church is perfect. We must all relax and instead of bringing one another down because of our imperfections, we must strive to build one another up in the realization that only a perfect God can keep us in complete unity.

Also, beginning well means developing trust. Trust is earned. Trust takes time. Forgiveness and love are given freely and daily. Trust must be earned. For those of you in the Stone Church reading this; take your time and watch me, let me earn your trust.

But what is true of me is true of you as well. I am watching you and seeing whom I can trust. There is no such thing as immediate trust. We need a few positive experiences to base a budding trust upon.

Some have been burned by a pastor in the past. Others are just the opposite, they were connected with a pastor in the past in a close and sometimes life-changing way and they wonder if anyone will ever live up to them and the relationship they had with them.

Thirdly, beginning well means being willing to sacrifice.

If we are going to see Stone Church "turn around" we must reinvest ourselves in the idea of sacrifice. When are we going to learn that God is not so much concerned about our happiness as he is our holiness and helping in the kingdom of God.

Beginning well means staying focused on the goal. What is our goal? Our mission? Ultimately to connect people to God. You and I were put on this planet to connect with God and connect other people to God.

We are not ultimately in the "maintaining a building" business, nor are we ultimately in the "building a building" business, but we are in the "people" business.

Just some thoughts on a Thursday.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Last Sunday afternoon I was meditating on the Sunday evening service (which means I was flat on my back asleep). When I awoke, the following thoughts came to me.

We desire the fire of God to be experienced at Stone Church.

What brings about the fire?

F - Freedom

Let's be free to worship God in spirit and in truth. Let's be free in our daily walk with God. God has not called us to legalism but to holiness!

I - Invite

Let's continue to invite anyone and everyone to join us in connecting with God and with one another.

R - Release

Let's release control. 85% of all church conflict is due to one thing. Who is in control? We camouflage it with all kinds of issues - church music, personality differences, ministry direction, but the enemy loves to confuse and attack us with feelings of "If it's to be - it's up to me."

E - Expect great things

Let's expect great things from God! We learn from the past, live in the present and lock-in on the future.

Freedom, Invitate, release, expect....may the fire of God fall!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I'm back!

I'm back! Debbie and I have transitioned to Palos Heights, Illinois (Chicago) and we are having a blast. We are now the lead pastor for the Stone Church, the oldest church in the Assemblies of God.

Transitions are interesting. It has been said that we are either entering a room, residing in a room or leaving a room. Life is full of transitions and seasons.

Transitions are cleansing. Everyone comes with a clean slate. While we all carry baggage from the past, our relationships with one another are full of deposits with no withdrawals.

Transitions are full of changing. At no time are we more open to change than during transitions.

Here's a great question that we can discuss today: Do you look toward change while at the beginning of a transition while the atmosphere is full of change - or do you go slow and build up trust levels and then make changes after a season of relational growth.

Interesting question......