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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mystery of God

If there is one thing the new wave of authors and speakers (like Rob Bell and Mark Batterson) are helping us with is coming back to the mystery of God - the fact that we can't put God in a box.

I find it interesting that God didn't reveal himself to the religious leaders but to Mary and Joseph (common people) and shepherds. Why? Probably because the fundamental mistake the religious leaders made was trying to force God to fit in their religious boxes.

Instead of being conformed to God's image, they tried to recreate God in their image.

What they ended up with was "a God in a box."

Jesus healed people on the Sabbath, and instead of celebrating the amazing miracles, the leaders plotted to kill him. Why? Because he didn't fit in their box.

We can't put God in a box.

That's one of the by-lines of Christmas. We can't put God in a box. Who would have thought that God would have chosen to impregnate a 13 year old girl, by His Holy Spirit, so that we could reestablish our relationship with him. Can anybody reading this explain the virgin birth? How about the trinity?

I would suggest that some things just aren't meant to be "figured out." That there is an element of mystery that remains and will always remain in our walk with God. That's why God is God. If we had God "all figured out" he wouldn't be God!

In his book Rumors of Another World, Philip Yancey says there are two ways of looking at the world:

"One takes the world apart, while the other seeks to connect and put together." He goes on to say, "We live in an age that excels at the first and falters at the second." Similarly, I think there two ways of approaching God. One approach takes God apart; I call it the theology of dissection.

We make God manageable and measurable. We reduce God to a set of propositions or seal tight theologies or divine formulas. We fall into the trap of reductionism. I'm not suggesting that we don't put Scripture under the microscope. But if we aren't careful, we end up with a God in a box. Or in the words of A.W. Tozer, we end up with a God who can "never surprise us, never overwhelm us, never astonish us, never transcend us."

Have you been surprised by God recently? Or is your relationship with God so stale, so routine, that you have it "all figured out"?

Isiah 55:8,9 tells us about God that, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

May this Christmas be a time when we celebrate the mystery of God.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

some practical Christmas suggestions

I am a part of a lot of conversations that deal with the idea that we must make Christmas less commercialized and more about Christ.

This is true.

As the old cliche goes, "Jesus is the reason for the season."

But how can we make that practical for our lives?

Some suggestions:

Read the Christmas story as a family either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Watch "It's a wonderful life" as a family. What a great flick. It's conclusion shows the true meaning of Christmas. I've watched it so many times I can almost quote the lines from memory.

Make some of your Christmas gifts. Nothing says, "I love you" more than a gift that is personally made.

Read aloud a Christmas book or story each day. Depending on the ages of your children, you could choose pictures books or short stories about Christmas. Every December 23 bring out a new book or story for that year and read it for the first time.

Children love to “camp out” so consider sleeping in sleeping bags in front of the Christmas tree one night. Munch on snacks, leave the lights on all night, and make a special memory!

Keep a simple Christmas scrapbook. Each year add a page or two with details about how you celebrated as a family, favorites gifts given and received, and people who shared the holiday with you. Add a few pictures, scraps of wrapping paper, and a sample of the Christmas card and letter you sent out that year.

Give your children the opportunity to act out the Christmas story from the Bible. Read it through several times beforehand, discussing the most important aspects. Then allow your children to plan and present a play for family and friends.

Invite members of your family, people from church, or neighborhood families to a potluck carol sing. Prepare copies of favorite carols, and set a loose schedule so that you have time to sing all the songs distributed. As an alternative, consider caroling at a hospital, nursing home, or around the neighborhood. Then return to your home for dessert and hot chocolate.

When setting your Christmas dinner table, set a literal place (chair, plate, glass, and silverware) for Jesus as an honored member of your family. Place a golden paper crown on the place setting for Christ.

Attend our Christmas Eve service as a family to seal the reverence of the celebration of Christ's birth as a valued family tradition.

But most of all, give.

We all have various Christmas traditions. Few of us probably have a tradition quite like the Robynson family's.

In his book "Crazy Love", Francis Chan shares their story:

"This family of five, with three kids under the age of ten, chooses to celebrate the birth of Christ in a unique way. On Christmas mornings, instead of focusing on the presents under the tree, they make pancakes, brew an urn of coffee, and head downtown.

Once there, they load the coffee and food into the back of a red wagon. Then, with the eager help of their three-year-old, they pull the wagon around the mostly empty streets in search of homeless folks to offer a warm and filling breakfast on Christmas morning.

All three of the Robynson kids look forward to this time of giving a little bit of tangible love to people who otherwise would have been cold and probably without breakfast. Can you think of a better way to start the holiday that celebrates the God who is Love?"

Wow....may we all be filled with the spirit of Christ - giving. "For God so loved the world that He GAVE His only son...." John 3:16.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's really hard not to generalize and stereotype people when events happen such as the "reporter" throwing his shoes at President Bush. (By the way, I thought that his actions were senseless and stupid).

It's easy to say, "all Iraqi people" are like that. "Those Iraqis, they do the dumbest things."

Yet we can't do that. When I was in a middle eastern country last September, it was articulated to us time and time again that the people there didn't like their government (especially their president), didn't like their policies and asked us not to let their politicians be a representation of the rest of the people - especially the "person on the street."

One woman said (and I paraphrase), "if it weren't for our governments, we would all get along."

Not every Muslim is a terrorist, just as not every American is a bigoted, racist person (and those do exist).

I guess what I am saying is that when we have an interaction with anyone of another culture, race or ethnic group, we can't throw them all into a "bad group" if it was a good experience or a "good group" if it was a good experience.

Within each society and culture are good people and bad people. Ethical people and non-ethical people. Kind people and rude people.

Not all Americans are the same.
Not all French are the same.
Not all Africans are the same.
Not all Asians are the same.
Not all Pentecostals are the same.
Not all Baptists are the same.
Not all Catholics are the same.
Not all Republicans are the same.
Not all Democrats are the same.
Not all "northerners" are the same.
Not all "southerners" are the same.

We, especially as Christians, should not be guilty of stereotyping groups, recognizing that stereotyping is different from the just and loving use of generalization.

Jesus said in John 7:24, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

In our ordinary use of language today, a “stereotype” is a generalization that is not built on what Jesus calls “right judgment.”

Merriam-Webster defines a stereotype like this: “a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment.”

Implication for Christians: Beware of forming stereotypes—unjustified generalizations. Not only do they tend to hurt people (or unduly puff up the pride of others); they are also unreliable guides in life.

Let's expand our worldview and realize that we live on a diverse planet - and at the same time seek a oneness of heart and spirit in the midst of our differences.

Monday, December 15, 2008

thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend.....

Debbie and I saw, "the day the earth stood still." It's one of the top ten worst movies that I have ever seen. The acting was horrible, the suspense almost non-existent, wow...the only redeeming thing was that we saw it on the ultra that was cool...great, comfortable chairs...

Becky came home yesterday. I'm glad she made it safely. George comes home today. It's always great to have them with us - especially for the holidays.

The children's production yesterday morning was very good. I really appreciated all of their hard work and effort.

It was good to get together as an entire church family in one service. We were able to "squeeze everyone in." There were a lot of guests - I'm thankful some raised their hands as Pastor Aldin gave an appeal for people to connect with Christ.

I was talking with Shirley Sorenson and sharing with her that I no longer need to "fight for a front seat" during the children's productions because our children are grown and out of the house. She reminded me of little Georgia Grace, my granddaughter, and the fact that in just a few years Debbie and I once again will be there at her church Christmas productions - an hour early just to get a seat near the front....ah, the cycle of life.

The Dallas Cowboys won last night. Their defense was excellent, the offense okay. I was please to see Tony Romo play so well.

Great weekend.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Scars and us

The Christmas spirit is scars and us.

Let me explain.

Father Damien was a priest who became famous for his willingness to serve lepers. 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.

That's the true story of Christmas.

God giving of himself - so that we might connect with him.

Let's look at it this way. What was in it for Jesus to come down and "put our skin on"?

Jesus prayed in John 17:5, "And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began."

Stop right here. A powerful, powerful verse that let's us into the mind and heart of Jesus.

"Glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began."

Jesus prays this at the end of 3 years of ministry, he's on the way to the cross and he simply asks that when His mission is all through - that he will be reinstated to His previous glory.

He doesn't ask greater glory, greater glory for all His years of effort in living on earth as God in the flesh, Immanuel.

He simply says, "Restore to me the glory I had."

In a theological sense, Jesus received nothing. He is the eternal Son of God before He comes. And at the end He's the eternal Son of god again.

Nothing more. Nothing less. What then does He gain?

Two things:


Scars and us.

I am humbled at that. Christ is a perfect model of what ministry is to be in the body of Christ. It's not, "what can I get out of it." If you are going to teach a fourth grade Sunday School class and you're looking for rewards, you are not going to get paid. A lot of people aren't going to notice you're there.

But who will notice that you are there? The fourth graders.

And there is nothing greater or more touching than to have a fourth grader, ten to fifteen years down the road to come up to you and say, "I remember you. You touched my life for Jesus Christ."

That's a wonderful reward.

Scars and us. That's the Christmas spirit that we have been talking about.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The true Christmas spirit

Christmas is 16 days away. It's coming close. That means we are either swimming or drowning in the Christmas spirit.

How do you feel about now? Stressed or secure? Anxious or anticipating?

Let me clarify what the phrase "Christmas spirit" means. Sometimes we equate the Christmas spirit with some kind of sentimental, sweet sappy feeling that comes from songs on the radio or Christmas decorations that light our house.

Before you start throwing stones, I'm not against any of that. I love Christmas songs, especially when someone like Josh Groban sings. I think Christmas decorations are great.

But the true "Christmas spirit" is something radically different. It's something more than the feel-good fuzziness that permeates commericalized Christmas.

I would suggest to you that the true Christmas spirit is a "free spirit" and a "freeing spirit."

Sometimes we think of someone with a "free spirit" as someone who is a radical "hippy" from the 1960's. Long hair, beard, eating crunch granola, and of course, only vegetables. Liberal in their politics. Wanting to "blow up" the status quo.

But a "free spirit" is someone who has distanced himself from the things of this world. He is "free" in the sense that he has been freed from sin. He is "free in the sense that he has been freed from everything that binds.

Fear. Depression. Anxiety. Substances. Uncontrolled habits. Gossip. Slander. Envy. Jealousy. Resentment. Bitterness. Anger.

Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 that the "Christmas spirit" relates less to Santa and Frosty and more to the fact that Christ was born into this world to set us free.

He writes, "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it."

Experience the true "Christmas spirit" in the next 16 days. By the power of the Holy spirit, be joyful, have a conversation with God on a continual basis, don't complain but look for the best in everything, avoid temptation - and experience God's peace - and be free.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Who stole my church?

Our General Superintendent, George O. Wood, recommended a book recently entitled, "Who stole my church - bringing the church into the 21st century," by Gordon MacDonald.

It's been a long time since I have read something that powerful - especially concerning the themes of change and the church and bringing new methods and ideas into the church as we know it.

I like what G. MacDonald said in his preface. Rather than writing another academic, boring book about change, he writes from the perspective of a pastor in narrative form. The book itself is a novel, sharing the story of a pastor of a traditional church and the struggles he goes through in transitioning the church into the 21st century.

If you are reading this and desire to know how a pastor thinks, this would be a great book. The first chapter alone could be entitled, "an entry in the diary of George Flattery."

The book shows how we as pastors struggle with change ourselves, implementing change and helping others process change in their lives.

Change doesn't automatically mean growth but we can't grow if we don't change.

The pastor in the novel (Gordon - which tells me the novel is somewhat autobiographical) is dealing with a situation in the church where the membership has turned down, in a rather dramatic business meeting, a 150,000 dollar sound/audio sound system.

Gordon calls together 12 "influencers" in the church and over a period of months, through dialogue and discussion, the group discovers that change is necessary if the church is going to survive.

Although the characters are "fictional" I recognize people from churches that I have pastored down throughout the years.

I encourage everyone to read this book.

Monday, December 08, 2008


Wow...Debbie and I are grandparents. It's almost surreal.

Last Friday (December 5th) we received a call from Christie that she was in labor. So we immediately drove over to Grand Rapids, Michigan and were there throughout the afternoon, and early evening as little Georgia Grace Cummins was born around 9:40 P.M.

A beautiful baby girl.

I rarely get "shocked" but I was shocked when they told me that they named her Georgia Grace (they hadn't told any one about the name). It caused me to tear up as I was felt extremely privileged and blessed.

Christie and Andrew are going to make great parents.

As I told our church family yesterday, I went down to the gift shop in the hospital and bought about 40 dollars worth of stuff for Georgia.

One of the things I bought here was a t-shirt that has on the front, "if you think I'm cute, you should see my grandpa."

I commented to Debbie on our way home that I feel a definite life change, seasonal change coming on in our lives. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I know it's there. Some of you who are grandparents could probably fill me in on this.

All I know is, we are blessed. Great kids, now a beautiful granddaughter.

Thanks, God, for your graciousness to us.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

forgiveness and letting go

Here's what I know: forgiveness releases us.

Somehow we think that when we withhold forgiveness from someone that we are hurting the other person when it reality it is we who are suffering.

We build up walls in saying, "I'm never going to allow myself to be hurt again." "They've gone too far." And so we find ourselves withdrawing from participation in a marriage, in kingdom work or in any other kind of relationship that we are involved in.

Let me remind you: the alternative to forgiveness is bitterness and resentment.

I am passionate about not ending up my time on this planet as a bitter, resentful old man.

Dale Carnegie tells about a visit to Yellowstone Park where he saw a grizzly bear. The huge animal was in the center of a clearing, feeding on some discarded camp food. For several minutes he feasted alone; no other creature dared draw near. After a few moments a skunk walked through the meadow toward the food and took his place next to the grizzly. The bear didn't object and Carnegie knew why. "The grizzly," he said, "knew the high cost of getting even."

People who refuse to forgive, hurt themselves. Bitter people are no fun to be around. They can't sleep. Ulcers line their stomach. Their blood pressure rises. They see the negative in every situation because their life is polluted with these feelings of resentment and anger.

Again: People who are unwilling to forgive may feel that they are punishing the other person but the only person paying the price is themselves.

In the book, Understanding forgiveness," by Robert Harvey and David Benner, they write, "Try a simple experiment on yourself. Make a fist and hold it tight. One minute of this is sufficient to bring discomfort. Consider what would happen if the fist were maintained in that state of tension during a period that extended into weeks, months, or even years. Obvious it would soon become a sick member of the body.

You may hurt a person by not forgiving them and thus feel some satisfying sense of getting even, but almost without exception, the hurt you do to yourself may be even greater. After a while you may not feel the pain of the clenched resentment in your soul, but its self-inflicted paralysis will have its effect upon your whole life."

Forgiveness not only releases us physically and emotionally, it also releases us SPIRITUALLY. One of the greatest barriers to effective prayer and spiritual vitality is an unforgiving heart.

DL Moody wrote, "I believe [unforgiveness] is keeping more people from having power with God than any other thing -- they are not willing to cultivate the spirit of forgiveness. If we allow the root of bitterness to spring up in our hearts against someone, our prayer will not be answered. It may not be an easy thing to live in sweet fellowship with all those with whom we come in contact; but that is what the grace of God is given to us for."

An unforgiving heart binds up and blocks the Holy Spirit's ability to work. It becomes a barrier to effective and fruitful ministry. An unwillingness to forgive disrupts our fellowship with God. It steals from us the joy of knowing His forgiveness in our lives. Are you having trouble praying with power?

Is your walk with God in a rut? Has it been a long time since you have felt the presence of God?

Could it be that there is someone you need to forgive? Do you need to "let it go"?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Supporting one another

Coach Carter is the true story of Ken Carter (Samuel Jackson), a successful sporting goods store owner, who in 1999 became head basketball coach for his old high school in a poor area of Richmond, California.

Dismayed by the attitudes of his players and their dismal performance on the court, Carter sets out to change both. He immediately imposes a strict regime that includes respectful behavior, a dress code, and good grades as a prerequisite of participation.

One particular player, Timo Cruz (Rick Gonzalez), initially refuses to accept the coach's demands and quits the team, only to return later with a desire to be reinstated. Timo asks Coach Carter what he has to do to play. Carter informs Cruz that he must complete 2,500 push-ups and 1,000 suicide drills by Friday - a task even the coach calls "impossible."

By Friday, Timo is short of both goals. Coach Carter, though impressed with what Timo has done, asks him to leave the gym. He has failed.

Suddenly, one of Timo's teammates, Jason (Channing Tatum), who previously had a personality conflict with Timo, steps forward saying, "I'll do push-ups for him. You said we're a team. One person struggles, we all struggle. One player triumphs, we all triumph. Right?"

As Coach Carter stands speechless, Jason drops to the floor and begins doing push-ups. One by one the entire team begins to join in to help Timo reach his goal.

That's our goal at Stone Church. To have a team of ministers (and everyone is a minister) who are reaching out to support and sustain everyone around them.

Our goal is to abandon territorialism in the kingdom and be willing to reach out to other ministries and programs to form a solid chain that cannot be broken - either by our own flesh or by the enemy himself.

Our goal is to stand united in the midst of diversity. Unity without diversity leads to organization death. Diversity without unity leads to organization chaos.

Part of what we experience may be, just might be because of our culture here on the south side of Chicago. Rough. Tough. My way or the highway. Strong opinions. A readiness to participate in conflict. Overstatements I know, yet how many times have I come across someone who "used to go to Stone Church" because they either didn't get their way or didn't agree with something?

Wow...forgive me for being so blunt.

Where are those who are willing to serve? Where are those who are willing to put the kingdom united as the priority when it comes to ministry?

We all have different opinions of how ministry should and could take place. That is to be expected. But molding our opinions into one united force is the key.

Will you join me in this? Will you make it a point to express an opinion, but then relax and go with the prayerful consensus of others?

Let's reach out and help one another, encourage one another, and lift up one another as we minister together - and maybe do a few push-ups at the same time.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

GPS and our walk with God

There is one thing that I really like about walking with God - he calls me to a life of holiness - but he knows that I can't do that by myself - so He gives me the power to do so.

All we have to do is to depend upon him. He will direct and lead us and guide us if we will let him.

This past week Debbie and I bought a GPS. It's a lot of fun. I would take wrong turns just to hear this British accent say, "recalculating route."

I guess I am old enough to still marvel at that kind of technology.

Back to our thoughts on depending on God and Him living in and through us.

John Ortberg writes:

"I'll give you a picture of this. Nancy and I were in a part of the country we had never been before. We were going to be driving on obscure back roads, so we got a rental car, and the guy at the counter said to me, "Along with this car, if you want, you can also get a GPS system." Have you ever used a GPS system? You plug it in and punch in your destination. A woman's voice will tell you how to get wherever it is you are going. Well, when the guy at the counter asked if I wanted one, my immediate response was, "No. That is going to cost something. I don't need that. I can find where I'm going without that." Anybody want to guess what my wife weighed in with? "Get the GPS." So, we got the GPS.

Here's the deal: You can get the box. You can have the lady in the car, but that doesn't mean you trust her. If you trust her, what do you do? You do what she says. You go where she tells you to go. She says, "Turn left," you turn left. If she says, "Turn left," and in your heart you think, But I want to turn right, you remember, There is a way that seemeth right unto man, but the end thereof is death. Okay?

To follow Jesus means I will do what he says. I will mess up a lot. I'm going to need his power. I know that, but I form the intention. I say to him, "God, with your help, as best I can, I will do what you say. I will give you my life, my time, my obedience."

Here is the thing: If that is not your settled intent, then it is best to be honest about it. If that is not your settled intent, then whatever else you might be, you are not a follower of Jesus. An admirer, maybe. But he is looking for followers. He is looking for somebody who will say, "All right, God."

There is something else you need to know about him—something that is also true when dealing with a GPS system. At one point when we were driving in this car, I was quite sure the lady was wrong. She said to go left, and I didn't go left. I went right, because I knew she was wrong. Then as an interesting response, she said, "Recalculating route. When safe to do so, execute a U-turn." I knew she was wrong, so I unplugged her. That's the beauty of that little box. You can unplug her.

I got lost as a goose. My wife enjoyed that immensely.

So we plugged that lady back in, and you know what she said? "I told you so, you little idiot." She said, "You think I'm going to help you now? You rejected me. You just find your way home by yourself." No—she didn't say that. She said, "Recalculating route. When safe to do so, execute a U-turn."

Now see, that's grace. As soon as you're ready to listen, as soon as you're ready to surrender, God will say, "Here is the way home. Execute a U-turn." That's repentance. "I'll bring you home." That is grace. That's Jesus. He is the only one with authoritative wisdom about how to live. He is the only one who brings about the possibility of forgiveness for your sin and mine. He is the only one to give any kind of realistic hope of conquering death, of life beyond the grave.

Why would you not give your full devotion to Jesus? He does not present himself as a good, spiritual teacher to be admired from a distance. He presents himself as Master, as Lord, as the one to be followed and served and obeyed and worshiped. There is no other way. He is it."

Great stuff. May we follow the spiritual GPS of our lives - the Holy Spirit.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Auschwitz through the lens of the SS

I watched a show on the National Geographic channel last night entitled, "the diaries from hell."

In January 2007, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives received a donation of a photograph album. The photographs depict SS-Obersturmfuhrer Karl Hocker, the adjutant to the commandant of Auschwitz, SS-Stumbannfuhrer Richard Baer. Hocker was stationed at Auschwitz from May 1944 until the evacuation of the camp in January 1945.

The photographs (and the show) showed that even in the final months of the war, after Soviet troops had liberated concentration camps and labor camps to the east, SS officers stationed at Auschwitz enjoyed social functions and formal ceremonies. The album shows Auschwitz at a pivotal time - the period during which the gas chambers were operating at maximum efficiency - as the Hungarian Jews arrived and during the last months before the evacuation of the camp.

The photos show them enjoying a picnic. Relaxing on a sun deck. Singing at a "sing-a-long." Eating blueberries. Flirting (the women officers with the German men SS and vice-versa).

They are seen as people relaxing, smiling, having fun after a "hard day's work."

What has always disconcerted me about Auschwitz (having visited there in 1990) is that the men and women in charge of the camps were "every day" people just like you and me. Doctors. Lawyers. Bank tellers. Karl Hocker himself was a bank teller before and after the war.

That's what makes the crime so horrific. We tend to envision these people as the dregs of the German society who suddenly had power on there hands. They were not. They were normal, "every day" people who suddenly had the power of life and death and committed horrible crimes.

That's what makes the crime so chilling.

Jeremiah 17:9 states, "the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"

Left to ourselves, we are a self-destructive people. Full of hate, pride and an unresolvable thirst for self-absorption.

That's why we need Christ. That's why we need a belief in something beyond ourselves. If anything (for the non-religious person) it serves as a buffer between the ability of man to destroy mankind and living an every day ordinary life.

Adolf Hitler tried to destroy the Christian church and anything remotely religious. In the end, it ended up destroying him - and his empire.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

We love you!

From our hearts to yours, may you have a blessed Thanksgiving, a time of giving thanks to God, catching up with family and eating great food.

Debbie and I want you to know that we love and appreciate you a lot!

Thought I would leave you with this:

You Know You Overdid Thanksgiving When....

Paramedics bring in the Jaws of Life to pry you out of the EZ-Boy.

The "Gravy Boat" your wife set out was a real 12’ boat!

You receive a Sumo Wrestler application in your e-mail.

Friday you set off 3 earthquake seismographs on your morning jog.

Pricking your finger for cholesterol screening only yielded gravy.

A guest quotes a Biblical passage from "The Feeding of the 5000."

That rash on your stomach turns out to be steering wheel burn.

Representatives from the Butterball Hall of Fame called twice.

You consider gluttony your patriotic duty.

Your arms are too short to reach the keyboard & delete this.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Eating and guilt

It didn't bless me today to read that the average Thanksgiving meal tallies up to about 3,000 calories and 229 grams of fat. To quote: "That's a whopping 1,000 to 1,400 more calories - and more than 3 1/2 times the amount of fat - than what most people need in a day."

But is that doing to stop me from eating? Noooooooooooooooooo......waaayyyyyy.....

Top ten unhealthiest Holiday foods:

1. Mashed potatoes and gravy
2. Cornbread stuffing
3. Candied sweet potatoes
4. White dinner roll with butter
5. Turkey with skin
6. Pigs in a Blanket
7. Mini quiches
8. Spinach dip with crackers
9. Eggnog
10. Pie with ice cream

As a pastor, I absolve you of all guilt from enjoying the holiday feast on Thursday. Have fun with your family. Celebrate what God has done for you throughout this year. Give thanks to God! He is good - all the time!

And eat to your heart's content.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Being thankful for what you do have

I constantly try to remind myself in life of what I do have and not what I don't have. I am blessed in many ways.

I challenge you to do the same - this week - don't look at what you don't have, mediate on and be thankful for what you do have.

Sometimes a story says it best:

Nancy Ortberg writes, "I worked as a registered nurse for about ten years before my life took a different direction. One of my earliest patients was a young girl of about 14 who had been in a dirt bike accident. I met this young girl down in the physical therapy department. She was in a whirlpool bath. I had read her chart before I went down to work with her and had learned that as a result of the accident, her leg had been amputated below the knee.

I couldn't imagine what it must be like to be a 14-year-old girl with part of your leg missing. I introduced myself, and we made some small talk. Through the course of our time together, I learned that she was a follower of Christ, although she really didn't say much about that.

I was not prepared for her spirit, however, especially when she lifted her freshly amputated leg up above the bubbling water for me to see and said, "Look at how much I have left!"

She excitedly told me that since the doctors were able to amputate below the knee, it was much easier to fit a prosthesis. She wondered how long it would take to heal so that she could get started with that. I heard most of what she was saying, but I wasn't really paying much attention. My mind was fixed back on the "look how much I have left!" Her gratitude seemed really genuine. It wasn't denial or a Pollyanna mentality. She knew she was missing a good part of her leg, and she wouldn't have chosen that. But she was so very thankful for this bit of good news. Her spirit made my spirit soar that day. And I had two good legs.

Hebrews 12:28 says, "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God." Our gratitude, our thankfulness, is a way in which we worship God. We can sing, and that is worship. We can say thank you, and that is worship. And that day in the hospital, the gratitude of a 14-year-old girl moved me."

Wow....great stuff....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

a statement of faith

Stone Church was established in 1906 at the corner of 37th and Indiana in Chicago, Illinois. Throughout the years, our church has seen God do great things: lives have been changed and many have been called into full-time ministry service.

While we have been a visionary church in the past, it is time to “dare to dream again”!

In realizing the need to relocate from our current facility on 127th and Ridgeland, our church family voted in May, 2004 to move to 183rd street in Orland Park, Illinois. The potential in Orland Park is enormous with a population explosion taking place as new families are moving in on a monthly basis. Stone Church is committed to focusing staff and financial resources to create ministries that will reach these families. Our vision is to not only reach Orland Park with the gospel message but the entire Southland of Chicago for Jesus Christ!

Our 15 year goals include relocating the church facility, reaching 2000 in attendance, giving $1,000,000 a year to missions and planting four churches in the area.

These needs compel us to complete a relocation project that will cost $5,900.000.

Our current property has been sold, we need to move, THE TIME IS NOW!

Our purpose is to “Love God” and “Love People.”

Our plan is that we as a church community continue to be a “Place to Belong,” a “Place to Grow,” and a “Place to Serve”.

Our process is that we encourage people to celebrate with us on Sunday mornings, connect with us in small groups and contribute with us in ministry.

We need you! You are important to us!

The time has come for us to step out in faith. God has given us the vision to be His church and reach the Chicago South Suburban area for His kingdom.

Will you pray? Will you commit boldly? Will you give generously and sacrificially? Will you share our vision of moving forward for God?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

When you are tempted to quit

There comes a point in every great project, every great vision, where the realization of "this is going to be a lot of hard work," comes into play. Whether it is painting a house, building a porch or relocating a church, feelings of "what have I got myself into," will always crop up.

It's at those times that we must remember three things:

A. The fulfillment of a huge vision is a marathon not a sprint.
B. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
C. We do this for Jesus.

These three facts are the keys to overcoming feelings of giving up and "wanting to quit."

I think of Moses. Moses faced some difficult and shocking circumstances that would test his leadership.

Things had gotten so bad while he left his people to be along with God that the nation of Israel's relationship with God was in jeopardy.

Would he quit or stay at it?

Moses stayed at it. He begs God not to give up on the Israelites. And God didn't. Arguably, He wouldn't have anyway, but that' sup to the theologians to debate.

What we do know is that Moses didn't quit, even though quitting would have been understandable.

Instead, Moses cried out to God and reminded Him of His promises. And God, in return, gave Moses the strength to carry on.

Are you tempted to quit that which you have begun?

On December 9, 2007, Matthew Murray shot and killed Tiffany Johnson, 26, and Philip Crouse, 24, at a Youth With a Mission (YWAM) training center in the Denver suburb of Arvada. He later killed two at New Life Church in Colorado Springs…

Despite the deaths, YWAM is on track with its missions training program. Training for missions will begin once again in January, and not one of the 120 who signed up has dropped out of the program.

Director of the Arvada YWAM Peter Warren spoke with Christianity Today about the shooting:

Matthew was in the building for half an hour talking with students, and then he asked to spend the night. Tiffany was called to the front because she handles hospitality. Normally, we would not have someone spend the night without knowing them or arranging ahead of time. After that, Matthew said, "Then this is what I've got for you," pulled out a gun and began shooting.

After firing a few shots, he had his foot in the door, and at some point his foot slipped and he fell back. The door slammed shut on him and automatically locked, so he could not get back in again. Right then, other staff and students were driving up and saw Matthew banging on the door, trying to get back in. When Matthew saw them, he ran away.

After [a] student performed CPR on Tiffany, she regained consciousness and asked [another trainee named] Holly, "Is it bad?" Holly said, "Yes, it's bad." Tiffany looked at Holly and her boyfriend, Dan, who was also shot, and said, "We do this for Jesus, right guys? We do this for Jesus."

Remember, this whole relocation project is about Jesus. Ministering for Jesus. We do is for Jesus.

If you are tempted to quit something you have started, why not pray this prayer:

"Father, I'm tired and ready to throw in the towel. This world just doesn't seem to get it. Following You, doing what Your Word says, is sometimes hard. Sometimes I feel like no one's listening to me. Sometimes my circumstances just knock me down. But I know that You can pick me back up. When I'm feeling sorry for myself, help me to remember that You really do care about me in all the big things and little things in my life. Thank You that You care enough to finish in me what You've started. Amen."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Joy, joy, joy

I've been there before and I would suspect you have to. Those times when it seems like you have lost the ability to worship God with sheer joyfulness and thankfulness for what He has done.

God intends for you and I to walk with joy, His joy in our lives.

Pastor and author Mark Buchanan shares the conversion story of an alcoholic named Wanda. In a 2008 article for Leadership journal, Mark was able to tell the rest of her story:

"Wanda did well for about eight months—got into Alpha and a 12-step group, got her kids back. Then she didn't do well, in and out—mostly out—of rehab. Then she vanished.

Then one day she called again, sober, after a year in rehab in Vancouver. She was getting out the next week.

Could she come home?

Her first Sunday back, I initially didn't recognize her. She looked healthy. Dressed and in her right mind.

I was preaching on the ten lepers Jesus healed, and the one, a Samaritan, who returned to give thanks. I said that anyone who has been cleansed by Jesus, who wants to be made whole by him, worships at his feet in deep thankfulness, in utmost desperation.

They have nowhere else they want to go. And then, to close, I reminded people we have a tradition at our church: anyone can come up to the front and pray with one of our prayer ministers.

Wanda came forward. But she didn't go to a prayer minister. She walked onto the platform, between the guitarist and the drummer, and stretched her hands heavenward. She worshiped like One Leper returning.

A woman who didn't know her, and who isn't on the prayer team, walked up, put her arm around her, and worshiped, too.

Then—you could hear it—all of us worshiped with deeper thankfulness, out of greater desperation. Out of the storeroom had come new treasures as well as old, and the Kingdom hovered very close."

Why don't you pause with me right now and just raise your hands and express your thankfulness to the Lord for the good things in your life?

Health. Family. House. Car. Food. Relationship with Christ. Family of God. People who love and care for you.

May God's joy rest upon you this day.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Be still before God

Yesterday in my teaching, I mentioned that the question is not "is God speaking," but "are we listening"?

It's hard to listen when we are the ones doing all the talking.

It's hard to listen when we allow distractions all around us.

In Directions, James Hamilton writes:

"Before refrigerators, people used ice houses to preserve their food. Ice houses had thick walls, no windows, and a tightly fitted door. In winter, when streams and lakes were frozen, large blocks of ice were cut, hauled to the ice houses, and covered with sawdust. Often the ice would last well into the summer.

One man lost a valuable watch while working in an ice house. He searched diligently for it, carefully raking through the sawdust, but didn't find it. His fellow workers also looked, but their efforts, too, proved futile. A small boy who heard about the fruitless search slipped into the ice house during the noon hour and soon emerged with the watch.

Amazed, the men asked him how he found it.

"I closed the door," the boy replied, "lay down in the sawdust, and kept very still. Soon I heard the watch ticking."

So many truths, so many impressions from the Holy Spirit come to us in the quietness of our souls. Not moving around. Still. Quiet. Letting God speak.

I encourage you to practice that this day. It does take practice. It's not something we learn to do automatically.

"Be still," the Psalmist says, "and know that I am God." Psalms 46:10

Often the question is not whether God is speaking, but whether we are being still enough, and quiet enough, to hear.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"I'll pray about it."

The "death rattle" in God's kingdom is when someone says in response to an invitation to minister, "I'll pray about it."

After 28 years, I know that "I'll pray about it," is code for, "when pigs fly" or as the French say, "Quand les poules auront des dents" - "When chickens have teeth" - "I'll participate in that ministry."

There are some things you don't need to pray about.

Sharing your faith with your neighbor. That is God's will for your life.

Walking through your spiritual disciplines on a daily basis. That is God's will for your life.

Putting God first. That is God's will for your life.

As we walk through the process of dreaming together and completing our vision of relocating out to 127th street, I am praying for a group of people that will get in line and say, "How can I help?" "What can I do?" "Is there anything else I can participate in?" "Why didn't you ask me before?"

I am praying for a group of people who are willing to do as God commands. Who are willing to "kick it up a notch" for God, and "put a knife between their teeth and a bandanna around their head," and "Rambo" it for God.

Some might be waiting to be asked to participate. I encourage you, yes, I pray that you will be open to seeking out opportunities to serve God.

Mark Batterson writes, "Several years ago I was a part of a small group with a friend who was working with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Georgetown University. As we shared prayer requests at the end of one of our meetings, my friend said their ministry needed a computer, and I said I'd pray for him. I started praying that God would provide a computer, and then I felt as if God interrupted me. It's hard to describe the tone I heard from God. It was stern but not unkind. It was as if the Holy Spirit whispered these words in my spirit: Why are you asking Me? You're the one with the extra computer!

So I quit praying midsentence and decided to do something about it. I told my friend I had a computer that I wanted to give him. And I became the answer to my own prayer. Why ask God to do something for us when it is within our power to do something about it ourselves?"

Perhaps the answer to the challenge of relocating lies not with everyone else around us but with we ourselves.

There are some things you don't need to pray about.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What if?

I was thinking this week, what if we turned our "what if's" into "what is"?

We need to learn to ask "What if?" in every area of life: our spiritual growth, our work, our family, our marriage, our ministry, our sphere of influence.

We all want a deeper relationship with Christ, promotions at work, family relationships that are strong and connected. We all want to be an influence for God.

"What if"?

However, in order to turn your "what if" into "what is", you must first turn your "what is" into "what if".

In other words, instead of simply accepting things the way they are, consider the possibilities of the "what ifs" in your most challenging situations. Take some time to ask, "What are the possibilities here? What is the best that could happen? How could things change, and what could I do to initiate the process?"

Dream. Set goals. Think of ways that God can use you in ways you never thought possible.

Don't settle for what is.

I know that I am not.

Ephesians 3:20 is a powerful verse: "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine....dream....(and I can dream some pretty big things for God's kingdom)....according to his power that is at work within us."

Let's don't sell God short on what he can accomplish through us if we are willing to once again ask, "what if"?

Explore the world of what if, and see what new dreams God can inspire.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Where are the committed ones?

Where are the committed ones?

The Bible states in 2 Chronicles 16:9: "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him."

Where are the committed ones?

Where are the ones that are committed to advancing the kingdom without concern for their own personal agendas?

Where are the ones who are willing to sacrifice to "do whatever it takes," without a thought as to the when, where, why and how?

In his book "Don't Waste Your Life", John Piper recounts a story his father often told in his days as a fiery Baptist evangelist. It is the story of a man who came to saving faith in Jesus Christ near the end of his earthly existence.

Piper writes:

"The church had prayed for this man for decades. He was hard and resistant. But this time, for some reason, he showed up when my father was preaching. At the end of the service, during a hymn, to everyone's amazement he came and took my father's hand. They sat down together on the front pew of the church as the people were dismissed. God opened his heart to the Gospel of Christ, and he was saved from his sins and given eternal life. But that did not stop him from sobbing and saying, as the tears ran down his wrinkled face, "I've wasted it! I've wasted it!"

My prayer for all of us is that we again recognize we are to do more with our lives than "waste" them in front of a television set.

God calls us to reach our community for Him!

Don't waste it by living for yourself when you can use it instead for the glory of God.

Monday, November 10, 2008

How far do we go with the "rules"?

How far do we go with the "rules"?

Last week (as I shared in the service yesterday morning) I was out all week with some kind of viral thing (non-contagious). It put me down. Fever, headache, sore throat. Mean, nasty, nasty stuff.

One of the highlights of my week was watching Gomer Pyle (yes it got that bad).

Well, the story line is that Gomer and his platoon have been given MP duty in the town near the marine base.

Gomer is so kind hearted that the can't arrest anyone. He tries to talk them out of their problems. At one point he sews on a button for a marine who was missing a button from his shirt and was considered "out of uniform". He lets one marine "promise" to not get into a fight again and lets him go. The marine promptly begins to fight again.

Gomer is so bad at being an MP that Sergeant Carter decides to put him on guard duty at one of the gates to the marine base and tells him, "at non time, Pyle, are you allowed to let anyone come through those gates without proper identification."

Well, the story line is that Gomer is standing guard duty, and in the meantime Sergeant Carter is out on a date with Bunny, his girlfriend. They are about ready to order something to eat, and Carter realizes that he has forgotten his wallet. Bunny won't pay, in fact, can't pay, she doesn't have any cash, so in order to eat, they go back to the base, and guess what.

Yep. Gomer won't let them through the gates because Sergeant Carter doesn't have the proper identification.

Was Gomer right? Was he wrong? Is there ever a time when the rules are no longer enforceable?

Are there situations where following the rules would be more harmful than helpful?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Living without

The Psalmist writes in Psalms 46:1, "Be still and know that I am God."

That's hard. Be still - and then know God.

To know God is to be still. To be quiet. To realize that intimacy with God comes from the quiet places of our lives.

Our lives are filled with so much static. I find it hard to sit without some kind of noise, how about you?

I can remember being the desert in southwest New Mexico, with nothing but the sun and the landscape. The silence was deafening. Almost unsettling.

Yet, it's in this kind of setting that our relationship with God thrives.

I would suggest that God continually finds ways to communicate with those who truly seek him, especially when we lower the volume of the surrounding static.

There's the story of a spiritual seeker who interrupted a busy life to spend a few days in a monastery.

"'I hope your stay is a blessed one,' said the monk who showed the visitor to his cell. 'If you need anything, let us know, and we'll teach you how to live without it.'"

You see, to truly know God, it's not a matter of what I am willing to live with, it's a matter of what I am willing to live without.

Paul writes to in Titus 2:11,12, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age"

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Being spiritual in a non-spiritual world

Percentage of U.S. adults who say they have:

Been protected from harm by a guardian angel: 55 percent
Felt called by God to do something: 45 percent
Witnessed or experienced miraculous, physical healing: 23 percent
Heard the voice of God speaking to them: 20 percent

In spite of the fact that we live in a culture that is so totally materialistic and lacking in a deep spiritual awareness - there is hope.

Recently, I have heard stories of people being touched by God - in ways that could only be considered miraculous.

Deep down inside, I believe most Americans long to be spiritual in a non-spiritual world.

"Father, may we continue to seek you, first, and then all these things will be "added unto us. Our hope is in you, God!"

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Enthusiasm and fulfilling the vision

I like to hang around enthusiastic, positive, committed people.

One of the men that I have read about (and read some of us writings) has been a man by the name of Fred Smith, the FedEx CEO and founder.

He first developed the idea for an innovative air-freight company while he was a student at Yale University. His professor was less than impressed; the paper Smith submitted outlining the concept earned him a "C".

Thirty years later, FedEx is the world's largest express transportation company, with 128,000 employees and more than $7 billion in capital.

This short-sighted professor didn't take a few things into consideration. One is Smith's persistence—he simply refuses to give up. Another is his resourcefulness—when plan 'A' doesn't work, there is always a plan 'B' to put in motion.

Most important, however, is Smith's ability to recruit others to his vision. People want to be part of what he is involved in—even to the point of sacrifice.

In the early days, for example, his pilots often refueled company jets with their own money. Sometimes they sat on paychecks for months to help keep the company afloat.

How does he do it? How does he command such devotion from his employees?

Fred Smith's greatest asset is his enthusiastic determination to get the job done. It sounds like a cliché, but he believes in what he is doing. As a result, he inspires loyalty.

I trust that you are catching my desire and enthusiasm for seeing us complete the God-given vision of relocating our church to 183rd street.

I trust that you are seeing the "what can be" of the move. Thousands driving by the church on highway 80. A connecting place for those wanting to worship from the western suburbs and Joliet area (with 355 opening up). A lighthouse to the thousands moving into the southwest suburbs every year.

Every day, as I drive by and see our property, I visualize the building and people coming to the building for ministry.

Yet, hear me well, my dear friends. It's going to take sacrifice. It's going to take persistence. It's going to take commitment. It's going to take loyalty to the cause.

If you pray for me about anything, pray that I will continue to exhibit that same kind of enthusiasm in my position as a leader.

The Christians in Philippi offered Paul this same kind of loyalty. They supported him through prayer, hard work, and sacrificial giving. Why? Maybe they were inspired by the enthusiasm they observed in Paul when their church was first founded.

You remember the story: After being beaten in the town square, Paul and Silas were thrown in jail. They were singing hymns late into the night when an earthquake came and shook the foundations of their jail cell, freeing them from their chains.

Paul could have escaped. He could have left Philippi and never come back, but instead he stayed, and took the opportunity to lead the jailer to Christ. Paul believed in what he was doing, and his enthusiastic determination to spread the gospel encouraged the Philippian believers. [Acts 16]

Your enthusiasm has a profound effect on others. When you approach anything with an upbeat commitment to get the job done, people begin to take notice. When they see that you believe in what you are doing, they become willing to join in the process.

The secret, then, is to pour your life into something that captures your heart, and give it all you've got. Solomon said, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might." (Ecclesiastes 9:10) You will find that your zeal is contagious, and it will spread to the people around you.

Will you join me in seeing the vision fulfilled?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Weekend highlights

Weekend highlights:

1. Sensing and feeling God's presence in both services yesterday morning.

2. Hearing God give us a word of encouragement through the spiritual gifts of language and interpretation.

3. Watching as people's level of faith began to rise concerning what God can do (and will do) in implementing the vision and future of our church.

4. The Dallas Cowboys won. (Howbeit a defensive, boring game). The Cowboys offense looked really bad.

5. Dinner at an Italian restaurant with Debbie. We had a great time, ate some spaghetti and split a salad. It's always nice to hang out with your best friend.

6. The Michigan State Spartans beat the Michigan Wolverines. Becky and I texted after the Spartans won. They are now 7-2 with the possibility of a major bowl game.

7. Listening to Pastor Aldin's stories of God's ability to work miracles that he shared during his Sunday evening teaching. It shows that God is never too late, he's never too early, he is always on time.

8. First Assembly of God in Battle Creek now has new pastor, voted in at 97%. We rejoice with them!

9. Receiving thank you cards for "Pastor appreciation". It's nice to know that Debbie and I are loved and appreciated!

10. Have a great Monday!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Who is the antichrist?

On the Internet and in other places, many are speculating as to who the antichrist. Some say they have "proved" it is John McCain, other state that it is Barack Obama, others still say that it is Sarah Palin.

This kind of speculation has seemingly taken place for decades if not centuries.

Listed below are some of the names of people who have been thought to be the anti-Christ in the past few decades:

Ronald Wilson Reagan because each of his names had six letters each 666

Mussolini was accused of being the antichrist because his title was "The Duce." If you take those letters and use Greek letter number equivalents it comes down to 666

The same is done with the Pope's title, "the Vicar of Christ," except using Latin letter number equivalent, and a little numerology it comes down to 666

The guesses are still there. You could almost take any figure and if you want to work long enough with the spelling and the extrapolation you can force it into your theory. Someday somebody is going to be right.

Someday the mathematical formula is going to equate. But there is along history of interpretation to this passage. You can go back to the 18th century in England and read reams of material on who the guesses of the English theologians were in the eighteenth century.

I've heard people say Bono is the antichrist.

There's a politician in Italy that's very popular in the EU that some have seriously suggested might be the coming antichrist.

When Saddam was still president of Iraq there were Christians claiming that Babylon would literally rise where ancient Babylon was, in Iraq, and that Saddam would be the antichrist.

Napoleon and Hitler were said to be the antichrist.

Other names that have come over the years, stating that they are the antichrist include: Henry Kissinger, David Hasselhoff, Hugh Hefner, Constantine, George Bush, John Kerry, Ronald McDonald, Stalin, Bill Gates, Nero, Gorbachev, Jim Jones, John F. Kennedy, Barney the Dinosaur, well you get the idea.

Let me give you three quick thoughts:

1. Barack Obama, John McCain or Sarah Palin are not the anti-Christ.

2. I’m not looking for the anti-christ; I’m looking for Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

3. The rapture is supposed to occur before the anti-Christ comes into power.

Just some thoughts....

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Being a Christian and a head coach

I'm driving home last night listening to a sports talk radio show.

I became agitated.

The radio show host was speaking of Mike Singletary, the new football coach of the San Francisco 49ers, and a Christian man.

He was critical of Singletary's ability to be a good head coach because of his faith and the fact that Singletary is very open and "proactive" (my word) about his walk with Jesus....that Singletary would not be able to relate to the players.

Am I missing something here?

Tom Landry won two Super Bowls as a head coach and was a godly man.
Tony Dungy won a Super Bowl and is a godly man.

The list goes on.

The radio show host mentioned that one time he was sitting on a plane next to Singletary and that he read his Bible and highlighted it the whole flight.

A. Singletary did not press his faith on the man - he simply read his Bible.
B. What did he want him to read - a "men's" magazine?

Furthermore, at the end of his comments, he stated that Singletary was one of the most decent men he had ever met and really liked.

So to be a head football coach in the NFL you have to be indecent and unliked?

I reject that. How about you?

To me, and obviously I am biased, a man or woman's faith only enhances their ability in whatever sphere of work that are at. Especially when it comes to their ability to lead others.

Some of the greatest leadership principles you will ever read about have come from the life of Jesus himself.

By the way, I later heard Mike Nolan, in his "goodbye" press conference as the former head coach of the 49ers, state that he was all for Mike Singletary as head coach because he "had the heart of the players."

Again, am I missing something or what?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

fishy symbols

Symbols are very powerful.

I think of the Macintosh commercial where the "Mac guy" wears jeans and is an every day kind of guy. The Microsoft person is wearing a suit. Symbols.

Other powerful symbols in our culture are the Golden Arches of McDonald's the Nike "Swoosh" log and the hood ornament of Mercedes-Benz.

I can remember walking through the Protestant chapel at Dachau, the Nazi concentration camp in Germany. There is a wide door that you walk through that immediately narrows into a darkened hallway leading downward into the building.

Before you walk through the tunnel, there is an open sanctuary of the chapel with its pews altar, Bible and cross.

After pausing to reflect on the horrendous evil unleashed in the concentration camp and praying, "Never again," you exit out of the other side to walk up a rising plane back into the light of day.

The symbol, of course, is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Bible is full of symbols.

Beginning with a snake in the garden, we see rainbows, a burning bush, a golden calf, a wooden ark, a holy temple and a wheel within a wheel.

We see guiding stars, descending doves, thundering voices a meal of broken bread and poured wine, a crown of thorns and a rushing wind.

Revelation is full of symbols from the seven candlesticks to a golden throne to the marriage supper of the lamb.

One of the most powerful Christian symbols is the sign of the fish (which we saw in Turkey during our tour of the seven churches).

You see the "ichthus" on the back of automobiles everywhere. Occasionally, you see them worn on necklaces or bracelets. I've even seen them as key chains and on hats. Even the evolutionists show off this symbol with the name "Darwin" aptly inscribed upon it. I've even seen these mysterious symbols with a small, pointy, dorsal fin protruding off the top of one of these, resembling a shark.

Those little fish symbols. Just what are they? What do they mean? What are they suppose to symbolize?

Just what does the Ichthus mean?

Ichthus (ikh-thoos) or ichthys is the Greek word simply meaning "fish".

The Greek spelling for ichthus is -- Iota, Chi, Theta, Upsilon, and Sigma. The English translation is IXOYE. The five Greek letters stand for the words meaning, "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior." The Greek rendering is, "Iesous Christos, Theou Uios, Soter".

This symbol was used primarily amongst Christians of the early church years (1st and 2nd century A.D.) The symbol was introduced from Alexandria, Egypt; which at the time, was a very heavily populated seaport. It was the port in which many goods were brought over from the European continent. Because of this, it was first used by the peoples of the sea as a symbol of a familiar deity, in this case, Jesus Christ.

The symbol was later used as a means of identifying or acknowledging a fellow believer in Christ without the need for any verbal communication being exchanged. Why was this necessary?

During the reign of Emperor Nero (54 A.D.- 68 A.D.), and throughout the reign of subsequent evil emperors of the Roman Empire, Christians were commonly persecuted, tortured, and put to death because of their faith in Christ Jesus. Emperor Nero himself personally despised Christians. He blamed them for the great fire of A.D. 64 which burned nearly half of Rome. It was during Nero's persecutions that both Peter and Paul are thought to have perished.

Spread throughout the empire, Roman soldiers were stationed everywhere to keep order and to act as police. This included keeping a watchful eye on the happenings of the daily lives of the people. Often times, when a soldier spotted a Christian, he would report it to his superiors who in turn would be ordered to arrest the Christian and to be brought in for interrogation. The Christian would then be harassed and tortured in order for them to recant and to submit to the many polytheistic religions of Rome. In most cases death would be the final end.

In order to prevent this unnecessary capture and persecution, Christians would often draw an ichthus in the dirt, mud, sand, or on the walls of caves to let another Christian know that he too was a fellow believer of Christ and that it was safe to talk about their faith without the fear of being turned in.

It wasn't until around 307 A.D. under the reign of Constantine that Christians were no longer persecuted. During his reign (307 A.D. - 337 A.D.) he declared Christianity as the official religion of the state which was a direct result of his own conversion to Christianity, although his perspective of Christianity was somewhat polluted with pagan ideology.

Nevertheless, Christians, in general, were spared from persecution - at least for the time being. Shortly after the Constantine dynasty ended, a successor, Julian the Apostate (360 A.D. - 363 A.D.), would later reinstate the pagan religions of Rome as the state religion and the protection of Christians was nullified.

Today, Christians all throughout the world have brought back to life this most interesting and historic symbol.

Christians today proudly show off the symbol that their spiritual ancestors once boldly and courageously showed to fellow believers centuries ago. So the next time you pass by a vehicle proudly displaying the ichthus, wave and acknowledge your fellow brother or sister (assuming they haven't cut you off). After all they're family!

Monday, October 20, 2008

A frog in your throat

Have you ever had something happen to you that was so incredibly hurtful and sad that you couldn't pray or lift your voice in worship?

You have a "frog" in your throat. A lump so big it seemed like you could never speak again.

I have.

Maybe you have too.

One day there were two guys who had left Jerusalem on Easter morning, downcast and depressed because they only information they had was that Jesus was dead.

They were not in an emotional state to sing, much less sing a "new song" to the Lord. The Bible says in Luke 24:17 that when Jesus came to them unrecognized, "they stood still, their faces downcast."

The reality of the death of Jesus had blown them away. They still loved Jesus, but their hope in Him was nuked, as indicated by their past tense statement in verse 21, "but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel."

The only thing is - they were talking to Jesus himself!

When we are walking through despair and a discouraging time, even when we don't feel like it - Jesus is there!

Karl Barth, the famous theologian, was on a streetcar one day in Basel, Switzerland, where he lectured. A tourist to the city climbed on and sat down next to Barth. The two men started chatting with each other. "Are you new to the city?" Barth inquired. "Yes," said the tourist. "Is there anything you would particularly like to see in this city?" asked Barth. "Yes," he said, "I'd love to meet the famous theologian Karl Barth. Do you know him?"

Barth replied, "Well as a matter of fact, I do. I give him a shave every morning." The tourist got off the streetcar quite delighted. He went back to his hotel saying to himself, "I met Karl Barth's barber today."

Each Christian is a temple of the Holy Spirit, a person in whom Christ actually dwells. But how often do we fail to recognize that we have been in the presence of God himself.

Like the two men, have you lost hope? It's easy to do.

Changes in life can cause us to lose hope. Downturns in the economy can cause us to lose hope. Death. Divorce. Separation.

Has a difficult experience torn apart your expectation of good things, but not your love for God?

Psalms 98 helps us with this. This psalm ask you to "sing to the Lord a new song," in verse 1.

Psalms 98 reads:

1 Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.

2 The LORD has made his salvation known
and revealed his righteousness to the nations.

3 He has remembered his love
and his faithfulness to the house of Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.

4 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;

5 make music to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,

6 with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn—
shout for joy before the LORD, the King.

7 Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.

8 Let the rivers clap their hands,
Let the mountains sing together for joy;

9 let them sing before the LORD,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples with equity.

If you have allowed bitterness, resentment, self-pity, or blame into your spirit so that there's a frog in your throat keeping you from singing this psalm, the same risen Jesus who appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus desires to come to you today and open your heart to recognize his presence in your life.

The same risen Jesus can give you hope once again and clear out the lump in your throat and allow you sing "sing a new song"!

Jesus is alive and in control.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A spiritual worldview

We talked about miracles last night in our Bible Study on Spiritual gifts and heard some wonderful stories about how God has performed a miracle in the lives of those present.

Great stuff.

One of the principles I brought out is that we tend to experience and view the miraculous from our basic worldview.

Let me define "worldview". James Sire writes that a worldview is a "set of presuppositions (or assumptions) which we hold consciously or unconsciously about the basic makeup of our world."

Our "worldview" is made up of what area of the world that we live in, how we have been brought up, what kind of exposure we have had toward things such as religion and philosophy, and our own personal experiences in the past.

People in Tehran, Iran, have a different "worldview" than those in Peoria, Illinois.

Many times we hear of missionaries stating that they see and experience the miraculous and the supernatural in other countries in a way that we do not here in America. I would suggest to you that a lot of that has to do with the word "worldview". How we look at things.

So many of us are caught up in a materialistic view of life - where the ultimate reality is material or physical. We are naturally inclined to only rely on our five senses of taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell. If we can't "see" it, we don't believe it.

There are five basic tenets to this worldview.

1. The universe is a cosmic accident that has no ultimate purpose.
2. Human life is a biological accident that has no ultimate significance.
3. Life ends forever at death for each individual life form.
4. Mind has no separate existence or survival apart from brain.
5. Humanity's intuitive, historic belief in a ultimate mind, spirit, or God behind, within, and outside of the physical universe is a form of self deception. Thus, humanity's corresponding belief in human uniqueness, dignity, purpose, and survival beyond death is a non-real view of reality.

Is it any wonder that life is so empty to the atheist? What does an atheist believe in? The Cosmos? That won't last. Themselves? They will die.

And is it any wonder that the atheist or the person who only looks at things through the lens of the natural cannot relate to God?

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2:6-16:

6We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9However, as it is written:

"No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him"[b]— 10but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.

13This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.[c] 14The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment:

16"For who has known the mind of the Lord
that he may instruct him?"[d] But we have the mind of Christ."

I again return to the point that isn't it more logical to believe in a God of the universe? Why not open up your heart to allow God to connect with you?

Now then, let's challenge each other as believers. We as believers must not quarantine ourselves to a simplistic naturalistic view of the world. We has believers must continually come back to the spiritualistic view that God has called us to.

Let's not shy away from the miraculous because of some of the "goofiness" that is going on in the name of the supernatural. We can be "naturally supernatural."

I leave you with this story:

On February 23, 1996, three to four months into a pregnancy, Mary Clarke (name changed) of Downers Grove, Illinois, remembers, "I was not feeling very well. I was having a hard time breathing and was very dizzy."

Her doctor said she should come in for an examination. As the nurse started to examine Mary, she said, "We'll be able to hear the baby's heartbeat." The nurse tried to pick up that heartbeat for a while but was unable to locate it.

When the doctor came into the examining room, the nurse asked him to try to locate the baby's heartbeat. The doctor tried for 10 or 15 minutes without success. He then decided to move Mary to an ultrasound room.

In the ultrasound room, the doctor located the baby and tried again to hear the heartbeat. He couldn't, so he asked the nurse to call another doctor. The second doctor tried to locate the heartbeat—for 15 minutes or more—but could not.

At this point, the doctor told Mary and her husband, Ron, "I'm sorry, but the baby has died. I can't tell you why, but these things happen. I'm very sorry, but you will have to be induced."

Mary says, "Ron's heart and my heart were broken. We had lost our precious baby."

The nurse took Mary and Ron to the birth center and explained what would happen when they induced labor. The doctor also requested testing to find out why Mary was having difficulty breathing.

"As I was lying in bed," Mary says, "I prayed that God would watch over our child until we could meet him or her in heaven. My heart was broken, but I was filled with the hope that I would one day see my child."

Meanwhile, Ron called Mary's sister, who called a woman at their church, Pat Bailey, to ask her to pray. When Pat got the call, she said something startling: "That baby's not dead. Tell them to double-check, to get a second opinion."

Ron and Mary talked about it and decided they would talk to the doctor one more time before anything was done, just to confirm the decision. To appease the couple, the doctor ordered another ultrasound.

Back in the ultrasound room, a new nurse, who did not know why this couple was there, started the ultrasound. In a moment she said, matter-of-factly, "And there's the heartbeat."

Mary asked her, "Are you sure the baby is okay?"

The nurse told her, "The baby's heartbeat is perfect, no problems."

Mary turned and looked at the nurse from the birth center: "Her jaw dropped, and her eyes were as round as saucers." The nurse called the doctor to come look at the monitor. "I can't believe it," he finally said. "If I had not seen this, I would not have believed it. This is not the same baby I saw on the other ultrasound."

As a precaution, Mary was admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital for observation. The doctor came to her room later. "I would like to give you an explanation for what happened," he managed, "but I have none. A diagnosis like this is always verified by a second doctor. But," he went on, "there are times when medical science cannot explain everything. Sometimes the only explanation is that God intervened."

Mary says, "I did not need an explanation. I knew that God had performed a miracle, and that was all I needed to know."

On August 22, 1996, Jamie Andrew Clarke (name changed) was born—a healthy, beautiful boy. The doctor who delivered him was the same doctor who had seen the lifeless baby on the ultrasound. He said to Mary and Ron, "This baby is special."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Some ramblings about "the end times"

In a recent article in The Futurist magazine, writer Laura Lee catalogues some of the worst predictions of all time:

"Inventions have long since reached their limit, and I see no hope for further developments." —Roman engineer Julius Sextus Frontinus, A.D. 100

"The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon." —John Eric Ericksen, surgeon to Queen Victoria, 1873

"Law will be simplified [over the next century]. Lawyers will have diminished, and their fees will have been vastly curtailed." —journalist Junius Henri Browne, 1893

"It doesn't matter what he does, he will never amount to anything." —Albert Einstein's teacher to Einstein's father, 1895

"It would appear we have reached the limits of what it is possible to achieve with computer technology." —computer scientist John von Neumann, 1949

"The Japanese don't make anything the people in the U.S. would want." —Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, 1954

"Nuclear powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality within ten years." —Alex Lewyt, president of the Lewyt Vacuum Cleaner Company, quoted in The New York Times, June 10, 1955

"Before man reaches the moon, your mail will be delivered within hours from New York to Australia by guided missiles. We stand on the threshold of rocket mail." —Arthur Summerfield, U.S. Postmaster General under Eisenhower, 1959

"By the turn of the century, we will live in a paperless society." —Roger Smith, chairman of General Motors, 1986

"I predict the Internet . . . will go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse." —Bob Metcalfe, InfoWorld, 1995

One lesson to these words is to be careful what you say. But beyond that, there is the element that during difficult times, there are always those who articulate that we are near the end. "The end is coming!"

I want to respond, "it's the end of the world - again."

I don't object to carrying over the daily news into a look see into the prophetic. How current events are the fulfillment of end time prophecy. I personally believe we are living in the end times. It's just that we have been living in the end times for 2000 years, since the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Isn't it always interesting how some can give into the temptation to dust off their copy of "The Late Great Planet Earth," and try to "sensationalize" everybody into a recognition of the fact that Jesus is coming soon?

Again, don't get me wrong, I believe we are closer to the "midnight hour" than we would like to think.

But rather than stirring up a lot of conversation of speculating about biblical prophecy, why don't we stand upon the word of God with the knowledge that God has everything under control.

Why don't we realize that rather than ushering in the future, God is much more interested in us drawing closer to him in the present?

Maybe it is the end of the world. But I'm going to continue to live life to its fullest in the present and continue to trust in Him.

Thanks for letting me ramble.

By the way, aren't you glad your faith does not rest on human words but on the sure Word of God?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Trusting in God

Trust in God. How easily that rolls off of our tongues. How difficult to live.

Jesus said in John 14:1, "Trust in God and trust in me."

I would suggest to you that trust was at the heart and center of the teachings of Jesus.

Here's what I know: Trust, many times, will not take away confusion or uncertainty in any given situation. Trust strengthens our relationship with God and lets us know that He is in control.

In Henri Nouwen's book, "The Inner Voice of Love," (published on the day of his death) he uses the word trust or trusting 65 times.

His earlier books are filled with the word faith. And yet in last book that he wrote before he passed away he uses the word faith once and the word trust 65 times.

Somewhere along the way, in the life of this man of God, faith combined with hope grew into trust. So deep was this trust in God that he saw even his own death as a blessed experience.

There was that "Job" spirit in his life that "Even though he slay me, yet will I trust him." Job 13:15

On May 17, 2008, Christian recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman and his family suffered a devastating loss.

Five-year-old adopted daughter, Maria, was struck and killed when Chapman's seventeen-year-old son was backing his SUV out of the family's driveway. After much prayer and counsel, Chapman recently returned to touring in promotion for his newest album.

Elizabeth Diffin, a freelance reporter, attended one of Chapman's concerts and writes about the experience:

"It's not often you leave a concert reflecting on the words of a song by a different artist. But as I exited the July 24, 2008, Steven Curtis Chapman event, the words of a Matt Redman worship song echoed through my head. Chapman opened the concert with "Blessed Be Your Name" just two months after the death of his 5-year-old daughter, Maria Sue, in a tragic accident at the family's home.

"Blessed Be Your Name" was also the first song Chapman sang May 21, the day of Maria's death, when he wasn't sure he'd ever be able to sing again. Inspired by the story of Job, at one point the lyrics repeat, "He gives and takes away."
"As I sang this song … it wasn't a song, it was a cry, a scream, a prayer," Chapman explained to the audience of nearly 5,000. "I found an amazing comfort and peace that surpasses all understanding."

Chapman also shared that after Maria's death, he'd reconsidered the words to all his songs and whether he could still sing—and believe—them. Instead, losing his little girl brought the meaning of some of those songs into sharper focus. One example was "Yours," which addresses how everything in the world belongs to God.

"In this song, in particular, I had to come to a new realization," he said. "There's not an inch of creation that God doesn't look at and say 'all of that's mine.'"
As a result of that realization in conjunction with Maria's death, Chapman added a new verse to "Yours":

I've walked the valley of death's shadow
so deep and dark that I could barely breath.
I've had to let go of more than I could bear and
I've questioned everything that I believe.
Still even here in this great darkness
a comfort and a hope comes breaking through
as I can say in life or death
God we belong to you."

May we all be blessed with trust in God

Monday, October 13, 2008

What would Jesus say when the market dropped 700 points?

What would Jesus say when the stock market drops 700 points?

Mike Woodruff writes:

"Jesus would want the downturn in the market to remind us of his presence.

Finally, I believe that one of the things Christ would say to us in the midst of this financial crisis is that he is present with us. Not only that, but he understands our fear and panic, and he is bigger than both. He wants to remind us that his love for us is greater than any market decline, that we are never alone, that we are not to be troubled or anxious. He wants to remind us that if we will just look to him, we will find peace.

Paul picks up on this theme in his letter to the believers in Philippi, a church he planted. Like the rest of the Christian churches at the time, they were facing persecution. In fact, Paul was in prison at the time of his writing the letter. It was possible he would die because of his faith. Against that backdrop—one not just of financial instability but personal safety—Paul writes:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

God's promises are there for us. But his promise is not a promise that things will turn out the way we want them to. There is no guarantee we will have a life of financial ease. To put it bluntly: God is not that small. What he promises is that everything will be okay. He promises us that we matter to God. He promises us he will exercise his plan—a plan that includes a chance to be with him forever, where there is no fear or pain or anxious moments.

The road between here and there may be rocky. That's okay. He will always be with you, offering peace and joy and strength for the present. If you know Christ, your ultimate well-being does not depend on a bailout plan from Congress, a healthy 401K plan, or even money in the bank. It depends on something much more secure than that. It rests on God.

I invite you to sleep through the night. Nothing that ultimately matters has changed. Shine your headlights just a bit further down the highway, and you'll realize that one of the least helpful things you can ever do is place security in something so transient as money. You want your faith to rest in a God whose love for his children will never falter."

Good words......

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The hopelessness of atheism

Of all of the different philosophies and religions in the world today, the one that doesn't make any amount of sense to me is atheism.

You've heard about a dial-a-prayer for atheist? You call up and no one answers.

Bad joke, I know.

To believe in nothing is so hopeless, so, what can I say, full of despair.

Isn't that what atheism basically is? A believe in nothing? Jerry Seinfield would be proud. A whole lot to do about nothing.

I would suggest to you that we were created to believe in something. Even "something" is better than "nothing".

In his book Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, William Lane Craig observes how difficult it is for an atheist to live with the logical conclusions of his or her beliefs:

"Unable to live in an impersonal universe in which everything is the product of blind chance, atheists sometimes begin to ascribe personality and motives to the physical processes themselves… For example, the brilliant Russian physicists Zeldovich and Novikov, in contemplating the properties of the universe, ask, why did "Nature" choose to create this sort of universe instead of another? "Nature" has obviously become a sort of God-substitute, filling the role and function of God.

Francis Crick, halfway through his book The Origin of the Genetic Code, begins to spell nature with a capital N and elsewhere speaks of natural selection as being "clever" and as "thinking" what it will do. Sir Fred Hoyle, the English astronomer, attributes to the universe itself the qualities of God.

For Carl Sagan the "Cosmos," which he always spelled with a capital letter, obviously fills the role of a God-substitute. Though these men profess not to believe in God, they smuggle in a God-substitute through the back door because they cannot bear to live in a universe in which everything is the chance result of impersonal forces."

In a world of substitutes and imitations, why not go for the real thing? God.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Connecting with people

I've never really gotten a complete handle on why we connect with some people and don't with others.

Some of it might be due to the fact of having the same goals, backgrounds, likes and dislikes. Yet I can't help but think that there is something intangible there. And to further the complexity of it, at different seasons in our lives we connect with different people in different ways.

I naturally gravitate toward people who are outgoing, love God, follow sports and can speak about such things as politics and they latest books that they have been reading.

Yet I have also had deep relationships with some who don't connect with any of those qualifications.

In his book, Becoming a Person of Influence, John Maxwell identifies nine steps for connecting with people.

1. Don't take people for granted.
You can connect with people and lead them only if you value them.

2. Possess a Make-a-Difference mindset.

3. Initiate movement toward them.

4. Look for common ground.

5. Recognize and respect differences in personality.

6. Find the key to other's lives.

7. Communicate from the heart.

8. Share common experiences.
No one ever achieves alone what he can do when partnering with others.

9. Once connected, move forward.

Number 5 just really resonates with me. We all are the same yet vastly different. And we are to respect those differences, in fact, we are to celebrate them.

I can't change you and you can't change me, so why don't we accept one another for who we are?

Just a thought.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Fear and Faith

I am sensing a certain amount of fear and anxiety in our country as a result of the recent financial credit crisis. Fear is contagious. It spreads like wildfire. Once it goes, "whosh", it is hard to contain.

While it is not on the level of the weeks after 911, many are turning to God during this time. That is not a bad thing. In fact, it is the right thing. The proper thing.

And the amazing thing about God is that even though many have forgotten him or even turned their backs on him, when they do turn back to God He accepts them and receives them as if they have never left. Such is the unconditional love of God.

I can remember back in 2005 which was a year in which nature demonstrated its fury. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and thunderstorms tore their way across the country from one end to the other.

In the midst of that turbulence, Jay Leno asked:

"Are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?"

Now is not the time to play around with God or Christianity or faith or following Christ.

If you are reading this and desire to come to God and find a church that will welcome you no matter what you have done or where you are in your relationship with God - why not try Stone Church? You can find out more about us at:

Monday, October 06, 2008

How other look at us

I find it interesting from time to time to read something or talk to someone who is so totally outside the realm of my world as a follower of Christ (and a Pentecostal one at that).

It shows me what some think of us or how they view us.

Sarah Palin's vice-presidential candidacy is bringing this to the forefront like nothing I have seen in recent years.

As you know by know, Sarah Palin grew up in an Assemblies of God church. She "speaks" the same language we do.

We understand her when she says that "God speaks to her."

We nod our heads in agreements as we listen to her articulate that she prays before every decision.

Yet his language, the language of being a Christ-follower is so foreign to many in the secular culture we live in that one might as well be speaking Chinese to a group of people in South Alabama.

Listen to the words of Sam Harris, an avowed atheist, from his article, "When Atheists Attack," in Newsweek magazine.

"In speaking before her church about her son going to war in Iraq, Palin urged the congregation to pray "that our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God; that's what we have to make sure we are praying for, that there is a plan, and that plan is God's plan."

When asked about these remarks in her interview with Gibson, Palin successfully dodged the issue of her religious beliefs by claiming that she had been merely echoing the words of Abraham Lincoln.

The New York Times later dubbed her response "absurd." It was worse than absurd; it was a lie calculated to conceal the true character of her religious infatuations.

Every detail that has emerged about Palin's life in Alaska suggests that she is as devout and literal-minded in her Christian dogmatism as any man or woman in the land. Given her long affiliation with the Assemblies of God church, Palin very likely believes that Biblical prophecy is an infallible guide to future events and that we are living in the "end times."

Which is to say she very likely thinks that human history will soon unravel in a foreordained cataclysm of war and bad weather. Undoubtedly Palin believes that this will be a good thing—as all true Christians will be lifted bodily into the sky to make merry with Jesus, while all nonbelievers, Jews, Methodists and other rabble will be punished for eternity in a lake of fire.

Like many Pentecostals, Palin may even imagine that she and her fellow parishioners enjoy the power of prophecy themselves. Otherwise, what could she have meant when declaring to her congregation that "God's going to tell you what is going on, and what is going to go on, and you guys are going to have that within you"?

You can learn something about a person by the company she keeps. In the churches where Palin has worshiped for decades, parishioners enjoy "baptism in the Holy Spirit," "miraculous healings" and "the gift of tongues."

Invariably, they offer astonishingly irrational accounts of this behavior and of its significance for the entire cosmos. Palin's spiritual colleagues describe themselves as part of "the final generation," engaged in "spiritual warfare" to purge the earth of "demonic strongholds."

Palin has spent her entire adult life immersed in this apocalyptic hysteria. Ask yourself: Is it a good idea to place the most powerful military on earth at her disposal? Do we actually want our leaders thinking about the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy when it comes time to say to the Iranians, or to the North Koreans, or to the Pakistanis, or to the Russians or to the Chinese: "All options remain on the table"?"

My answer to Sam Harris, is yes, we do want our leaders to think about the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy when it comes time to say, "All options remain on the table." We do want someone who is in touch with God.

And let's not forget that it was Hillary Rodham Clinton who back in 1996 admitted to holding conversations with Elenaor Roosevelt and Mahatma Gandhi as a therapeutic release, and Nancy Reagan sharing that she consulted the stars (astrology) in making major decisions.

All of us come from some kind of presuppositional background. Why not a background of being in connection with a higher power, the creator of the universe himself?

Besides, who else am I to believe in - Sam Harris?