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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thoughts about blessing at Christmas

At this stage in my life, I take far more enjoyment out of giving gifts at Christmas than in receiving them.

I take great joy in seeing family member's eyes light up and sparkle as they receive a gift given out of love.

Don't you think that God is probably the same way? Don't you think that God loves it when our eyes sparkle with happiness, joy and gratitude at the gifts that he gives us on a daily basis in our walk with him?

Even more than being blessed this Christmas, God calls us to be a blessing. And in being a blessing - we are blessed. It's circular.

A great illustration of this is Larry Stewart, 58, a successful businessman from Lee's Summit, Missouri. Prior to the Christmas season of 2006, Stewart announced that he is the Secret Santa who has been anonymously doling out $100 bills to the needy every Christmas for the past 26 years.

Stewart says he decided to go public after it became apparent that a tabloid newspaper was going to reveal his name. Now, he hopes to inspire others to become Secret Santas.

So how did this practice begin?

In the winter of 1971, Stewart was working as a door-to-door salesman. The company he was working for went out of business, and he quickly ran out of money. Stewart hadn't eaten in two days when he went to Dixie Diner and ordered a breakfast he eventually admitted he couldn't pay for.

Ted Horn, the restaurant owner, sympathized with Stewart. He acted as though he found a $20 bill on the floor underneath of Stewart's chair. "Son, you must have dropped this," Horn said.

"It was like a fortune to me," Stewart reflected. "I said to myself, 'Thank you, Lord.' Right then, I just made a promise. I said, 'Lord, if you ever put me in a position to help other people, I will do it.'"

Over the years, Stewart estimates that he has given away around $1.3 million. He says he has been amply rewarded in return. "I see the smiles and looks of hopelessness turn to looks of hope in an instant," he says. "After all, isn't that what we're put here on earth for—to help one another?"

May you be a blessing this Christmas - and bring a smile to someone's face.

Merry Christmas! Debbie and I love you all very much!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Faith and works

Pastor James writes in his letter to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations (2:24), "You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone."

Paul writes in Romans 3:28, "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law."

How do we solve this apparent contradiction?

Are we saved by faith or are we saved by our works? Or both?

We are saved by faith alone. However, a sign that we have been saved is that we work in God's kingdom.

There are three differences in the two verses:

First, the emphasis is different.

Paul is talking about the root of salvation. Faith in Christ plus nothing.

James is speaking of the fruit of salvation. Each believer of Jesus Christ must bear fruit. Jesus said in John 15:4,5, "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, He will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."

Secondly, the perspective is different.

Paul is looking at our salvation from God's perspective, like a fire in a fireplace.

James is looking at it from a human perspective, like smoke coming out of a chimney. To James, the world should be able to tell that a faith burns in our hearts by the works they see coming out of our lives.

Lastly, there is a difference in terms.

Both use the same word, "justified" but with two different meanings.

Paul uses the term as an act of God at salvation whereby he declares us righteous while we are living in a sinful state.

James uses it with the meaning of "validation or evidence." We show, we prove our faith by our works.

Author Tony Campolo tells how he disembarked from a plane only to discover he was scheduled to speak to a group of women at a World Day of Prayer event he had forgotten about.

He rushed over to the meeting—held at a large, wealthy church—and arrived exhausted, not knowing what to say to the women gathered for the conference. Before calling him to speak, the leader of the meeting produced a letter from a missionary in Venezuela. Campolo relates:

She read this letter from this missionary who had a hospital, and they needed $5,000 desperately to put an extension on the hospital because they couldn't handle all the patients.

She turned to me, and she said, "Reverend, would you please lead us in prayer that the Lord would provide for our sister in Venezuela?" And I said, "No!" She was taken back by that. I stood up, and I said, "I'll tell you what I will do"—and it was a good day to pull it off because I was only carrying $2.25—I pulled out my wallet, and I pulled out the two dollars and a quarter, and I slapped it down on the pulpit and I said, "That 's all the money I'm carrying. Madame Chairman, I want you to put all the cash you're carrying on the pulpit." And there were about 1,000 women in this group.

I said, "I'm going to ask each of you to do the same. No checks. Just the cash you're carrying. Bring it up. Lay it on the altar. We'll count up the money, and if we don't have enough, I will ask God to write out a check for the difference."

The woman took out $110 of unadulterated cash and put it with my $2.25. A hundred and ten dollars in cash! Why didn't I marry somebody like that? I said, "We're on our way; we've got $112.25." I said, "You're next," and I pointed to a woman on the front row. She looked around. I said, "I'm serious. Come up here and put your money on the altar." You see, I come from a black church, and you know that's the way you take up an offering, you see.

And she sheepishly came up and put her money on it, and I said, "Okay let's line up and do it one by one." And they did it! Money kept on piling up and piling up and piling up. When it was all over, we counted the cash. And we had over $7,000, instead of the five that was being required!

And I know we didn't get it all because I could see women giving me dirty looks as they walked by. And I said, "The sheer audacity of asking God for $5,000, when God has already provided more than $7,000."

There's a season for everything. There's a time to pray and then there is a time to work. Both are necessary.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lunching with a Buddist

I had lunch with a Buddhist yesterday. We had a great time. I enjoyed it immensely. We exchanged ideas and philosophies. A lot of us aren't really knowledgeable concerning Buddhism so I thought I might share with you an interesting article from a Christian (Stan Guthrie) concerning Buddhism and our relationship with God.

Here's the question of the day: After reading the article, what has been your experience (if any) with those who follow the teachings of Buddha?

"Buddhism-the religion of renunciation and "the middle way"-is self-confident and robust in an America increasingly looking for "enlightenment" and intrigued by the enigmatic smile of the Buddha.

Fueled by both a surge in Asian immigration in the past 30 years and celebrity endorsements from the rich and famous (singer Tina Turner, actor Richard Gere, Italian soccer star Baggio, the peripatetic Nobel Prize-winning Dalai Lama, and Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson), this worldwide religion of 565 million has successfully transplanted itself into the United States.

In an attempt to discover the religion's appeal to growing numbers of Americans, Terry Muck, associate professor of comparative religion at Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, Texas, interviewed Americans who had converted. "The most common response I got was that it offered them a peace and contentment through the meditative technique," says Muck, author of "Those Other Religions in Your Neighborhood." "The idea seemed to be that American culture is so hectic and busy and stressful, and the various kinds of Buddhist meditation techniques [are] an antidote they hadn't found in … the Christianity that they had grown up with."

James Stephens, a former Buddhist who launched the evangelical Sonrise Center for Buddhist Studies in Sierra Madre, California, six years ago to develop information and training to evangelize Buddhists, estimates there are 2 million in this country. Other research says there are only 558,000 active Buddhists in North America.

Diana Eck, professor of comparative religion at Harvard University, says there are 1,500 Buddhist centers in the United States. The 102,000-square-foot, $25 million Hsi Lai ("Coming to the West") Temple in Hacienda Heights, California, is the largest Buddhist structure in the Western Hemisphere.

Such figures only begin to tell the story, however. Recent films, such as What's Love Got to Do with It? based on the life of Tina Turner, and The Little Buddha with Keanu Reeves, present Buddhism attractively to a culture groping for spiritual understanding. Buddhism also benefits from the popularity of the New Age movement and Hinduism, which Stephens says are closely related to it. "People are looking for answers," says Stephens, who was a Nichiren Shoshu (Soka Gakkai) Buddhist for 14 years before his conversion to Christianity. "[People] are looking for a theology of suffering. They're looking for meaning to their lives."

American Buddhists have used their wealth to finance Buddhist activities and construction projects both here and in Asia. "Their influence is very powerful," Stephens says. "Buddhists look at America as a mission field, as a prime mission field."


While many in the West turn to the East for spiritual guidance, few American Christians have taken on the challenge of Buddhism, either here or overseas. Before he decided to start the Sonrise Center, Stephens discovered a "gaping hole in the efforts to evangelize Buddhist peoples." Contrasting the comparatively high interest in other religions, such as Islam, Stephens notes, "There's not anything from an evangelical point of view, or a historically Christian accurate point of view, which addresses the Buddhist faith and those who are lost in the darkness of Buddhism."

One reason for this neglect is because Buddhism, founded by Siddhartha Gautama, a sixth-century B.C. prince from India, is fundamentally different from the Judeo-Christian world-view. Buddhism asserts that all is emptiness, illusion, and that the desire to "have" is what brings pain. Buddha taught that suffering comes from ignorance. The religion holds to endless cycles of reincarnation, which can only be broken when one becomes enlightened.

For the Buddhist, "salvation" means extinction, release from the wearisome cycle of birth and rebirth. This "nirvana" is attained through following the eightfold path: right views, goals, speech, conduct, lifestyle, efforts, awareness, and concentration.

There are three main schools: Theravada ("the Doctrine of the Elders," adhered to by 38 percent of all Buddhists), the form closest to that taught by Gautama Buddha; Mahayana ("the Great Vehicle," 56 percent), which has allowed the most innovations and adaptations in Buddhist doctrines; and Tantrism or Vajranaya ("the Diamond Vehicle"), also known as Tibetan Buddhism, which adds elements of Hinduism and the occult (6 percent).

The adaptability of Buddhism is one of its greatest strengths. "Buddhism is a very flexible philosophy," Stephens says. "Because of its doctrine of assimilation, it easily [changes] itself, much like a chameleon, to other religious forms. You can be a 'Christian' practicing Buddhist because [adherents say] 'Buddhism is just a philosophy.' " With a common interest in techniques such as meditation, psychology is another arena in which Buddhism has made itself at home.

"Some of the ideas that Buddhism espouses have already had something of an impact on our culture in more of an indirect way," Muck says. "I think it's largely in the area of 'finding oneself ' on a spiritual path through meditative techniques, slowly becoming more and more purified. That dovetails very well with the American preoccupation with self-help psychology. To some extent, Buddhism has tapped into that cultural predisposition and injected religious meaning into it for some people."

Another plus in the American mind is that Buddhism can give one a feeling of spirituality without demanding a lot in return. Citing the "clear rules and guidance" of his former belief system (the Nichiren Shoshu sect), Stephens says, "The whole system is very well oiled, and so people see that and say, 'Oh, here's something that I can do. It doesn't have too many moral, ethical codes that I have to follow and sets of rules. So I can do something that doesn't cramp my style.' "

Adding to Buddhism's current appeal is the visibility of the Dalai Lama, the telegenic "god-king" of Tibetan Buddhism. Pointing to the continuing worldwide concern about the persecution of the Tibetan people by China, Stephens notes, the Dalai Lama has been aided by public relations know-how. "He talks about following 'a religion of kindness.' He doesn't say, 'I follow the religion of Tibetan Buddhism.' Well, who doesn't want to practice kindness?"


Stephen Hishey is a citizen of India who used to be a Tibetan Buddhist. Today, with the help of FEBA Radio in the Seychelles northeast of Madagascar, he produces Gaweylon (Good News), a daily, half-hour Christian radio program geared to the millions of Tibetan Buddhists in Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, and India. Hishey says there are around 75,000 listeners to Gaweylon, and many are open to the gospel. He tells of a letter from a single monastery in India. It has 200 signatures beneath the words, "We are behind you. We are listening."

But he makes clear that winning Tibetan Buddhists to Christ involves prayer first and foremost. "There's a tremendous amount of spiritual warfare that is involved in Tibetan religion," Hishey says. "This is basically shamanism and occultism. To go with a so-called plan or strategy is not enough."

Stephens, who says he lost all his Buddhist friends when he converted, believes Christians must engage Buddhists in true friendship evangelism. "We must see our fellow travelers on planet Earth as our Lord Jesus Christ sees them … made in the image of God."

Monday, December 17, 2007

It's a "we" thing

Two years ago for my 50th birthday, I went skydiving. It's hard to describe if you haven't been. I can talk about the wind, and the anxiety before jumping and the exhilaration of landing without being wiped out, but unless you have skydived, there's not going to be much connection there.

John Ortberg, in his book, "God is closer than you think," has written about Father Damien, who was a priest who became famous for his willingness to serve lepers.

Ortberg writes, "He moved to Kalawao—a village on the island of Molokai, in Hawaii, that had been quarantined to serve as a leper colony.

For 16 years, he lived in their midst. He learned to speak their language. He bandaged their wounds, embraced the bodies no one else would touch, preached to hearts that would otherwise have been left alone.

He organized schools, bands, and choirs. He built homes so that the lepers could have shelter. He built 2,000 coffins by hand so that, when they died, they could be buried with dignity. Slowly, it was said, Kalawao became a place to live rather than a place to die, for Father Damien offered hope.

Father Damien was not careful about keeping his distance. He did nothing to separate himself from his people. He dipped his fingers in the poi bowl along with the patients. He shared his pipe. He did not always wash his hands after bandaging open sores. He got close. For this, the people loved him.

Then one day he stood up and began his sermon with two words: "We lepers…."

Now he wasn't just helping them. Now he was one of them. From this day forward, he wasn't just on their island; he was in their skin. First he had chosen to live as they lived; now he would die as they died. Now they were in it together.

One day God came to Earth and began his message: "We lepers…." Now he wasn't just helping us. Now he was one of us. Now he was in our skin. Now we were in it together.

This passage reminds us of Paul words, "He took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form" (Philippians 2:7 NLT"

That's what I really like about Jesus. He doesn't pretend like he understands my needs and my hurts. He really does understand.

He's been there. Without sin. Yet experiencing a lot of the same "stuff" that we go through in our lives.

It's a "we" thing. Now that's a great Christmas present.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Discernment versus judging

Two of the best commercials shown during Super Bowl XXXIX were sponsored by Ameriquest Mortgage Company. Both had the same message: “Don’t judge too quickly.”

In one ad, a convenience store shopper is standing at the counter and talking on his cell phone. He says to the person on the other end, “You’re getting robbed.” The two clerks hear those words and react by squirting the man with pepper spray, slugging him with a baseball bat, and then zapping him with an electric cattle prod.

In the second commercial, a man is preparing a romantic dinner. He chops vegetables with a large knife, while tomato sauce simmers on the stove. A white cat knocks the pan of sauce onto the floor and then falls into the mess. Just as the man picks up his tomato-splattered cat, his wife opens the door. She sees him holding a cat dripping with red sauce in one hand and a large knife in the other. The scene appears to be unmistakably horrific.

As these ads show, things aren't always as they first appear.

We tend to judge don't we. We tend to rely on first impressions based upon how a person dresses or looks or talks or initially acts in our presence.

Jesus said, "don't judge"! Yet God calls us to have discernment.

What's the difference?

Discernment asks questions until all important facts are understood. Judging accepts hearsay at face value and forms opinions of motives on a few known factors.

Discernment studies all important factors in order to discover root causes for the present problem. Judging openly shares conclusions with those not related to the solution of the problem.

Discernment looks for a comparable problem in personal experience. Judging avoids personal self-evaluation by projecting hostility toward the offender and his offense.

Discernment carefully review the steps taken to overcome a similar problem. Judging has not yet overcome the same personal problem.

Discernment accepts the offender as he is and waits for the right opportunity to approach the problem. Judging fails to differentiate between the sin and the sinner and therefore, reflects a rejection of both.

Discernment gains the confidence of the one in need and then shares the steps taken to overcome a similar problem. Judging tells a person where he has been wrong without providing direction for a solution.

Discernment assumes the responsibility for restoration. Judging reminds God of the shortcomings of the offender.

I encourage us all today to walk in discernment.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mercy always triumphs over judgment

Tonight in our bible study lesson we will be looking at James 2:13, where Pastor James writes, "Mercy triumphs over judgment".

Mercy always triumphs over judgment. It's easy to judge, it's harder to show mercy. Of course there is a big, big difference between judgment and discernment.

Let me give you six basic indicators that expose a judgmental spirit.

1. If that person's failure improves the opinion I have of myself, I am judging.
2. If that's person's failure decreases my concern for the faults I know I have, I am judging.
3. If that's persons failure gives me a desire to see that they are punished and that when I fail I desire only mercy, I am judging.
4. If I am eager to tell others about their failure, I am judging.
5. If that' person failure prompts me to review their past failures, I am judging.
6. If that's persons failure causes me to feel that I cannot forgive them, I am judging.

Mercy always triumphs over mercy.

One of the stories that I love to use (often) in teachings in the big room is the following:

In The Whisper Test, Mary Ann Bird writes: I grew up knowing I was different, and I hated it. I was born with a cleft palate, and when I started school, my classmates made it clear to me how I looked to others: a little girl with a misshapen lip, crooked nose, lopsided teeth, and garbled speech.

When schoolmates asked, "What happened to your lip?" I'd tell them I'd fallen and cut it on a piece of glass. Somehow it seemed more acceptable to have suffered an accident than to have been born different. I was convinced that no one outside my family could love me.

There was, however, a teacher in the second grade whom we all adored--Mrs. Leonard by name. She was short, round, happy--a sparkling lady. Annually we had a hearing test. ... Mrs. Leonard gave the test to everyone in the class, and finally it was my turn. I knew from past years that as we stood against the door and covered one ear, the teacher sitting at her desk would whisper something, and we would have to repeat it back--things like "The sky is blue" or "Do you have new shoes?"

I waited there for those words that God must have put into her mouth, those seven words that changed my life. Mrs. Leonard said, in her whisper, "I wish you were my little girl." God says to every person deformed by sin, "I wish you were my son" or "I wish you were my daughter."

May we show mercy today in a judgmental world.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Acts of kindness

The news of the shooting at New Life church in Colorado Springs on Sunday is very unsettling. Horrible. Tragic. People killing people. Anger. Violence. We live in such an angry culture. A "spirit of anger" pervades over our society.

That's why a story I heard today brings "cultural relief" in the midst of all of the shootings and killings.

In Greensburg, Pennsylvania yesterday, a woman at a Starbucks decided to pay for the person behind her in the drive through. The man behind her did the same. Two hours later, over 100 consecutive cars participated in this wonderful act of kindness.

The server at the drive thru window would tell each car that they were under no obligation to participate in these acts of kindness. Yet, each person chose to do so.

In spiritual terms, kindness is a fruit of the spirit. It's comes from an outgrowth of our daily relationship with God.

Some people are not inclined toward acts of kindness, yet it's amazing what the Holy Spirit can do in our lives.

Kindness is shown by the words that we speak.

Mother Teresa once said, "Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless."

There's something to be said for giving someone a word of encouragement such as, "I really appreciate you." "You look great today." "What you said really spoke to my heart." "You're going to make it." "God loves you."

Kindness is also shown by the actions that we do.

I would offer today that true Christianity is demonstrating the kindness of God by offering to do some act of humble service with no strings attached.

Jesus said, "By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Michigan resident Matt Jones decided to offer one of his kidneys, simply because he knew someone would need it.

"I thought that if I could help one person live a decent life, that would be great," Jones said. "It's turned out to be a lot more than that."

Michael Rees, the medical director of the Alliance for Paired Donation, says Jones started the first-ever kidney donation chain.

A kidney donation chain is an innovative idea wherein family members continue to "pay it forward" (that is, after an individual is blessed by a new kidney, someone in the recipient's family agrees to donate a kidney for someone else in need).

Matt Jones's kidney was donated to Barbara Bunnell. Barbara's husband, in turn, will donate his kidney to Angela Heckman, a woman he barely knows. After Angela Heckman receives Bunnell's kidney, Angela's mother will donate her kidney to someone else.

Ron Bunnell, Barb's husband, says, "I look at it as Barb got this gift from Matt, and I'm just paying it forward. It is terrific to be part of something bigger."

Let's all "pay it forward" today.

Monday, December 10, 2007

1 Corinthians 13 and a paraphrase

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Some children were asked what love is. The responses were quite interesting and instructive for us adults.

One said, "Love is when my mommy makes a cup of coffee for my daddy and takes a little taste before she gives it to him to make sure it tastes okay."

Another said, "Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you’ve left him alone all day."

A response was, "You really shouldn’t say, ’I love you’ unless you really mean it, but if you mean it you should say it a lot, people forget."

One boy said, "When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth."

And finally 7 year old Bobby said, "Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen."

When you think of love it brings us to 1 Corinthians 13.

Normally we read 1 Corinthians 13 at weddings when in reality it should be a part of our every day lives. Let me give you the NIV version with a personal paraphrase of each verse.

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

(If I raise my hands in church and sing in the spirit and pray really loud, but do not have love, I am only making a lot of noise with no substance)

2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

(If I have been serving God for a long time and work hard in the church - setting up tables, taking down chairs, but do not have love, it's all style but no substance)

3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

(If I show up at every service, and give in every offering, and lead in worship and pray for people, but do not have love, it doesn't get me anywhere with God)

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

(Love puts people first, it's always able to be gentle when spoken to in a harsh way, it doesn't make a big deal out of things it has done, it's not seeking to control everything)

5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

(Love doesn't try to always "put people in their place," it seeks first to understand and then to be understood, it doesn't always bring things up from the past in the midst of conflict)

6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

(Love speaks creatively and positively about people. It always things the best of people not the worst)

8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

(You can never go wrong in showing love in any situation)

9For we know in part and we prophesy in part,

10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.

11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.

12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

May we realize the reality of love in our lives.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Mormons and being president

Mitt Romney is running for president. Mitt Romney is a mormon.

What's really interesting to me is how Milt Romney's presidential run will play out with Evangelical Christians who consider mormonism a cult.

I quote a news article from MSNBC today, "“He has to present himself as a person of faith,” Mr. Ostling said. “But he has to say he is not controlled by or is subservient to the authorities of his religion.”

I can remember when I was first pastoring in a small town near Bakersfield back in 1981. One of the major issues amongst the evangelical churches was whether to have the Mormon church softball team play in our "church" league and it even went so far as there were some Christians who suggested we banned Christians from going to our local Mormon dentist.

So the bigger question becomes, "can an evangelical Christian vote for a Mormon to be president?"

I don't want so much to give an opinion here as to ask your opinion - what do you think?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Dealing with our anger

We're going through James on Wednesday evenings, and tonight we are going to look at the subject of anger.

We all, at different times in our lives, have difficulty dealing with our anger.

In fact, it can take a great deal of persuasion in the lives of Christians to inform them that yes, all Christians get angry, even mature Christians. It's okay to get angry but it's what we do with our anger that counts.

We don't deny, hide or repress our anger, but express it in the right way.

Christmas is a time of year when our emotions can become rampant.

Christmas 2003 brought several instances of pieces on earth and bad will toward men.

In San Rafael, California, two men exchanged gifts and were offended by what the other gave. In the resulting fight, each man hit the other over the head with a flowerpot. Both were hospitalized.

Twenty-year-old Brandi Nicole Nason was also less than pleased with the gift she received. When her former mother-in-law's house burned, Nason was accused of throwing the Molotov cocktail that started the $200,000 blaze.

Although most people don't know what to do with their tree once the celebration is over, a woman in Victoria, British Columbia, had an idea. She was arrested for beating a man with her Christmas tree. The incident was sparked when the man grumbled that the load of gifts in his arms was heavier than the tree she was carrying.

When her Jensen Beach, Florida, apartment complex held a Christmas-lights competition, Donna Simmons-Groover was a winner briefly. One of her neighbors, incensed at losing the contest, ripped down part of Donna's winning display.

How can we control our emotions?

First of all we must analyze our anger. Proverbs 19:11 tells us that "A man's wisdom gives him patience." We must try to understand why we are angry.

Ask yourself:

Why am I angry?
What do I really want?
How can I get it?

Anger is never really the root problem. It's a symptom, a warning light that is telling you that something is wrong.

There are three causes of anger in our lives: hurt fear and frustration.

Secondly, don't sweat the small stuff and everything is small stuff.

Proverbs 19:11, "A man' wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense."

We can't major on the minors and minor on the majors.


Building safeguards around you. Don't let anger dwell in your spirit. Deal with it immediately. Respond in a godly way. Channel the anger. Energy created by your anger will scrub a lot of floors, mow a lot of grass, build cupboards, run, take walks, play sports and more. Ask for a time out. Count to ten. Say the Lord's prayer. Go for a walk.

Rely on the Holy Spirit.

Let the Holy Spirit help you discover the root of your anger and deal with it before It burns out of control.

Have quiet times to cultivate an environment of peace in your spirit.

Keep an anger journal.

Write every day - marking down the date, time, place and with whom you became angry. Write down why you became angry. What did you wish to accomplish with your anger. How could you have responded in a better way?

Stay away from anger proned people. Proverbs 22:24, "Keep away from angry short-tempered people or you will learn to be like them." Anger is contagious.

The way you express your anger is learned. Somebody has modeled it for you.

The good news is, since it's learned, it can be unlearned. You don't' have to stay stuck in those lousy patterns of anger that you grew up with being a mute or a maniac or a martyr, being a clam-up or a blow-up. You don't have to stay the same. You can change. You can learn new patters with God's help.

Finally, realize the consequences of your anger. Proverbs 14:29, "Anger causes mistakes. When we lose our temper, we lose. we lose the respect of other people. We may lose the love of people we love most. We can lose our health.

One thing I know. Jesus cares about our pain. Jesus wants to replace our frustration with a new level of peace.

May you live in peace today.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

10 questions

I have several questions that I would like to ask those of you who are from Stone Church who are reading this blog.

I encourage you to take the time to respond to them.

Here they are:

1. Why do we exist as a church?
2. What is our purpose?
3. What are we trying to do?
4. What is the point of our church?
5. What is the best thing that has happened in our church in the past 5 years?
6. What 10 words best describe our church?
7. What type of person finds our church most attractive? Least attractive?
8. List the needs of the people who find our church most attractive.
9. What reasons would you give friends for coming to our church?
10. What can we do to become more visible in our community?

Thanks.....I look forward to reading your responses....


Monday, December 03, 2007

Greater things

I found out Saturday evening around 5:30 P.M. that I was going to speak yesterday. Sometimes its during those moments that God chooses to move in his power and grace in a way that amazes us.

Feeling led to speak on the subject of healing, I received word Sunday afternoon that two people shared that they were healed Sunday morning. I also had the opportunity to pray the "sinners prayer" with a new brother in Christ.

Quite the morning. I believe its just the foretaste of what God has in store for us at Stone Church.

Jesus said in John 14:12-14, "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these , because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."

While we have celebrated our 100 year history this past year, maybe its time we start believing in ourselves not just because of our wonderful past, but because of our fantastic present and incredible future that God has for us.

Just a thought.