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Thursday, July 31, 2008

AntiChrist - Jew or Gentile?

One of the most asked and debated questions concerning the end times is about the Antichrist.

Anti means "opposed to". Antichrist then is someone who will be in opposition to Christ. If Antichrist means someone "opposed to" than he will probably be a Gentile. If anti means "in place of" Christ as a false Messiah, then he might be a Jew.

To back up the last definition, we can go to Daniel 11:37 which states, "Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers." God of his fathers meaning being a Hebrews.

However, this statement could equally apply to a Gentile whose parents were followers of Christianity, or Buddhism or Islam or anything else.

Daniel 11:37 simply states that the Antichrist will totally reject whatever religion his ancestors practiced. In fact, most of the more recent translations use the word gods instead of God. Ironically enough, the New Living Translation translates the verse correctly, "He will have no regard for the gods of his ancestors."

Why then will he be a Gentile?

1. The type of the Antichrist is a Gentile. Many Bible scholars believe that the "little horn" of Daniel 8 is a reference to the Seleucid ruler Antiochus Epiphanes. If that is correct, he is the only historical person who is specifically identified in the Bible as a "type" of the Antichrist.

2. Revelation 13:1 tells us, "Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea." The words sea when used symbolically in Scripture always stands for the Gentile nations. Read Revelation 17:15.

3. The Antichrist is shown in the Bible as the final ruler of the Gentile world power. He will sit on the throne over the final world empire that will raise its fist in the face of God.

4. One of the primary works of the Antichrist will be his persecution of the Jews. He will come against the Jews, invade Israel and desecrate the rebuilt Jewish Temple. Don't you think it is unlikely that he would persecute his own people? Read Daniel 7:25; 9:27; 11:41,45; 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 11;2; 12:6; 13:7.

Just some thoughts.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Headship and submission

Tonight we look at an incredibly difficult passage concerning 1 Corinthians 11:3. Paul writes, "Now the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man and the head of Christ is God."

In theological terms, "headship" and the ability to walk under authority is an important part of our Christian experience.

I can't lead until I learn how to follow.

If I am not in submission to Christ, than how can I lead my wife and family?

Men who are not submitted to Christ tend to abuse their role and try to dominate their wife or they shrink form their responsibility and leave their wife to carry a great burden. In some cases, men are both abusive and irresponsible.

On the other hand, many women refuse to submit to their husbands as Christ submitted to his Father. They become dominant, leaving their husbands passive and helpless.


Headship speaks of submission. Submission is not inequality nor does it suggest of inferiority but of a difference in roles and functions within the body of Christ and the family unity.

It is a choice one makes to submit.

Sam Bronfman, the late CEO of the Seagram Company, entered a crowded conference room and, anxious to get on with the meeting, plopped into the nearest chair. One of his young assistants immediately said, "No, Mr. Bronfman, you're supposed to sit at the head of the table."

"Young man," replied Mr. Bronfman, "wherever I sit is the head of the table."

I like that. Wherever God sits in our lives, He is to be the ultimate Head. Everything else falls into line after that.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

True meaning of life

There is a difference between living and living life. Living means I go through life, day by day, merely trying to survive, merely trying to satisfy my basic desires.

Living life means that I reach down into the depths of who I am and realize that there is more to life than getting up in the morning, going to work, coming home at night, watching some T.V. and going to bed.

Sometimes, it takes a difficult season in our lives to help us break out of our doldrums.

Tony Snow, the former spokesperson for President Bush, died of cancer this month after a three-year battle with cancer.

He wrote before he died:

"The art of being sick is not the same as the art of getting well. Some cancer patients recover; some don't. But the ordeal of facing your mortality and feeling your frailty sharpens your perspective about life. You appreciate little things more ferociously. You grasp the mystical power of love. You feel the gravitational pull of faith. And you realize you have received a unique gift—a field of vision others don't have about the power of hope and the limits of fear; a firm set of convictions about what really matters and what does not. You also feel obliged to share these insights—the most important of which is this: There are things far worse than illness—for instance, soullessness."

May God keep us from superficiality.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ministering as a team

One of the things I am learning about our church family is that many have aggressive agendas as to what the church should do (or not do) in ministry. That's not a bad thing, for it shows passion, commitment and a desire to do something for God.

Here's what I know: each ministry in our church is important. No one ministry is at the core of our church, each functions as a spoke of the wheel.

My goal and desire is to begin to balance out the passion and commitment I see for each and any individual ministry, with a desire to play (minister) as a team.

We are a team: Together Experiencing A Ministry.

Some football teams -- Notre Dame and Penn State, for example -- don't put the names of the players on their jerseys.

Lou Holtz, former coach of the Fighting Irish, said, "At Notre Dame we believed the interlocking ND was all the identification you needed. Whenever anyone complained, I told them they were lucky we allowed numbers on the uniforms. Given my druthers, I would have nothing more than initials indicating what position the wearer played. If your priority is the team rather than yourself, what else do you need?"

"Winning teams" have players who put the good of the team ahead of themselves.

Legendary football coach Bud Wilkinson said it this in The Book of Football Wisdom: "If a team is to reach its potential, each player must be willing to subordinate his personal goals to the good of the team. Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:5)

Thursday, July 24, 2008


It's one thing to speak - it's another thing entirely to listen. Sometimes that can be hard, I know it can for me. But I believe I'm getting better.

When I struggle with listening, it's not that I am speaking too much (although most of us simply talk too much. James 1:19 states, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.") but that my mind is focused on a lot of various and different things.

We can always become more proficient at listening.

You might say, "I think I'm a good listener." But there is a big difference between hearing and listening.

We hear - but are we listening?

Many times I've heard Debbie or my kids, or someone at church say something - but I didn't listen.

It's a skill that is developed.

Here's what I am learning.

To listen well I must:

1. Get all the facts

We go by assumptions don't we. We think we know the attitude and motivation of someone's heart.

Someone is speaking to you and they say something you don't agree with and there is a real temptation to say, "Time out, stop right there, let's deal with this." And you don't go any further. But we need to hear each other out.

Seek first to understand and then to be understood.

2. Stay calm.

In other words we can't become defensive.

You and I will be criticized. It's inevitable. The only way not to be criticized is to:

do nothing
say nothing
be nothing.

And even then, you will be criticized for nothing!

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

3. Ask questions

Proverbs 20:5 says, "The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out."

Jesus always answered an question with a question. Why? To seek out someone's heart. Their motivation.

Who? What? How? These are great questions.

4. Say back to the person what they have said to you. You can say something like, "let me say back to you what I think you are saying to me."

Just some thoughts for a Thursday.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


While I am always busy, it seems like lately that there has been an explosion of busyness and things to do. This week has presented some real challenges. There are conflicts to be dealt with (between church family members), offenses to overcome (between church family members)and problems to be solved.

As of this week, I am now the pastor of Stone Church.

I don't mind being busy, in fact I thrive on it, I feel I work best when the wheels are turning and every thing is in motion and things are moving forward.

However, after all of these years, I know I can't let my busyness keep me from meaningful conversations with God.

In data collected from over 20,000 Christians in 139 countries (though mostly in America) and between the ages of 15 and 88, The Obstacles to Growth Survey found that, on average, more than 4 in 10 Christians around the world say they "often" or "always" rush from task to task.

About 6 in 10 Christians say that it's "often" or "always" true that "the busyness of life gets in the way of developing my relationship with God." Christians most likely to agree were from North America, Africa, and Europe.

While busyness afflicts both men and women, the distraction from God was more likely to affect men than women in every surveyed continent except North America, where 62 percent of women and 61 percent of men reported busyness as interfering with their relationship with God.

By profession, pastors were most likely to say they rush from task to task (54 percent), which adversely affects their relationship with God (65 percent).

"It's tragic and ironic: the very people who could best help us escape the bondage of busyness are themselves in chains," said Dr. Michael Zigarelli, who conducted the study at the Charleston Southern University School of Business.

Father, I long for your spirit. I breath in your presence and long for it in the midst of a dry and thirsty land. Bless all of us, oh God, this day, with a renewal of your touch upon our lives. Maranatha. Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Practicing the spiritual disciplines

We had a great time at the baseball game last night. More than 30 of us from the Stone church went.

The Sox lost, but it was fun creating and strengthening existing relationships.

I found this today and thought I might share it with you:

"A common theme in modern Christianity has been that head knowledge is how one becomes more adept at following Christ: the more you know, the better you'll do. But in fact, that hasn't proven to be true.

Instead, it seems the Christian life is more like being a baseball shortstop: A young player can watch videos, read books by the greatest shortstops of all time, and listen to coaches lecture on what makes a good shortstop; but what will make him a truly good shortstop is getting out on the field and practicing. The only way he'll really get a feel for the game is to field ground ball after ground ball, to figure out when to play the ball on a short hop, when a pull-hitter is at bat, and how far to cheat toward second base when the double play is on. The more practice he has, the better he'll be.

Getting a "feel for the game" in following Jesus is much the same. You can listen to innumerable sermons and read countless books, but the true transformation happens only when you practice the disciplines that lie at the heart of the faith. As the disciplines are practiced, your life becomes more attuned to God's life, and you become more "at one" with the rhythms of creation. Like a finely trained athlete, you can anticipate the movement on the field; like a world-class pianist, you actually inhabit the music as you take notes on the page and give them life; like an expert carpenter, you run your hands over the grain of the wood and see what this rough cut can become."

Good stuff

Monday, July 21, 2008

A great story

Let me share with you a great story:

A traveler nearing a great city asked a woman seated by the wayside, "What are the people like in the city."

"How were the people where you came from?"

"A Terrible lot," the traveler responded. A mean, untrustworthy, detestable in all respect."

"Ah, said the woman, "you will find them the same in the city ahead."

Scarcely was the first traveler gone when another one stopped and also inquired about the people in the city before him."

Again, the old woman asked about the people int he place the traveler had left.

"They were fine people; honest, industrious, and generous to a fault. I was sorry to leave," declared the second traveler.

Responded the wise woman: "So you will find them in the city ahead."

It all depends upon the attitudes that we have. Perhaps the grass is greener where we water it. It all depends upon what you are looking for.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sunday mornings

Have you ever wondered why we have the order of worship as we do on Sunday mornings? We Pentecostal types take great delight in sharing that we do not have rituals as others do - but we do. Anything that is done on a constant basis without a thought to why or how we are doing something - to me it is a ritual.

Tertullian, a third-century theologian once wrote, "Custom without truth is error grown old."

Why do we do what we do?

In most Protestant churches the order of worship is the same with some minor variations.

Even amongst so-called "fresh approaches to worship" and emergent churches, the order is basically a greeting, prayer or Scripture reading, song service, announcements, offering, sermon and the closing prayer.

This order has been observed for the last 500 years.

Let me give you some "breaking news." That order is found nowhere in the Bible. Is it wrong? No, I am not saying that.

I am saying that you can read your Bible from Genesis to Revelation and you will never find anything that even remotely resembles our order of worship.

In the book of Acts the meetings were unpredictable, fluid gatherings.

It's interesting to me that our Protestant order of worship has its basic roots in the medieval Catholic Mass (read about this in the book "Pagan Christianity" by George Barna), begun by Gregory the Great (540-604), the first monk to be made pope.

He writes, "Significantly, the Mass did not originate with the New Testament; it grew out of ancient Judaism and paganism. According to Will Durant, the Catholic Mass was "based partly on the Judaic Temple service, partly on Greek mystery rituals of purification, vicarious sacrifice, and participation."

Martin Luther came along and tried to blow all of that up.

IN 1523, Luther set forth some revision to the Catholic mass, the revision that are the foundation for worship in most Protestant churches.

The biggest chance was this: Luther made preaching, rather than the Eucharist (communion) the center of the meeting.

The pulpit, rather than the communion table became the central element.

That's one reason that pastors many times are called "preachers" a term that is not palatable to me for it gives off the idea that is all that we do.

Luther made the following changes to the Catholic Mass.

He performed the Mass in the language of the people rather than in Latin.

He gave the sermon a central place in the meeting.

He introduced congregational sing

He abolished the idea that the Mass was a sacrifice of Christ

He allowed the congregation to partake of the bread and cup (rather than just the priest).

Yet, in spite of these major changes, Luther kept the same order of worship as found in the Catholic Mass.

Ulrich Zwingli (a Swiss reformer (1484-1531) came along and made his own reforms. He replaced the altar table with the Communion table that you and I are familiar with. He also had the bread and cup carried to the people in their pews using wooden trays and cups.

Zwingli also recommended that the Lord's supper be taken quarterly.

John Calvin came along (1509-1664) and stressed the centrality of preaching during the worship as Luther did. He believed that each believer had access to God through the preached Word rather than through the Eucharist.

Probably the feature that affects us the most from Calvin (for better or for worst) is the fact the he led most of the services himself form his pulpit. We still do that today. Today, the pastor is the MC and the CEO of the Sunday morning church services which is in big time contrast to the church gatherings of the early church.

Barna writes, "Another feature that Calvin contributed to the order of worship is the somber attitude that many Christians are encouraged to adopt when they enter the building."

In Puritan New England churches there was added the added "tithingman" who would wake up sleeping congregants by poking them with a heavily-knobbed staff (not that's not a bad idea).

The message today is still today, "Be quite and solemn, for this is the house of God." "Don't run in the church." All of that comes from tradition, not from God.

Going back to the Puritans, they began the order of three hymns, scripture reading choir music, union prayers, pastoral prayer, sermon, offering and benediction."

Again, familiar, but not in the bible.

George Whitefield came along (1714-1770) and gave us the idea that Sunday Services should be geared toward winning the lost. Choral music was designed to soften the hard hearts of sinners.

Invitational hymns were created by men such as Charles Wesley.

Altar calls were started. This practice began with the Methodist in the 18th century, specifically by a Methodist evangelist by the name of Lorenzo Dow.

Later in 1807, the "mourner's bench" was created in England, where people receive prayers and could spend time on their knees.

What are the hindrances to all of this?

1. It repressed mutual participation and the growth of Christian community.
2. It strangles the headship of Jesus Christ
3. The Sunday morning service is boring. It is without variety or spontaneity.
4. It allows you to sit through every Sunday, year after year, actually hindering your spiritual transformation. It encourages passivity, limits function, and implies that putting in one hour per week is the key to the victorious Christian life.

Okay, now that I (and Barna's book) have totally confused and maybe even pushed the anger level a little, let me say that at Stone Church we will not do away with Sunday morning service. We will not be making drastic changes in our order of service. We will still encourage people to experience God around "the altar".

But it is to say that one of the ways that we do get back to the spontaneous, free-flowing, everyone participating type of worship that the early church experienced is through small groups, home groups, life groups where spiritual transformation of a deeper level can take place.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rejoicing over the good

I sank a 40 foot putt last night. I suppose I should be humble about it, but after all of the frustrating shots that golf affords, it feels good when something like that happens.

After it went in, I was cool. I simply tossed my club aside and gave my best "Tiger Woods imitation" with the fist pump and going on one knee while yelling. Then I fell on my back and kicked up my feet and yelled some more. Then I gave fist bumps to everyone. But I was "cool".

Here's a thought: it's okay to rejoice when something good happens to us - and when it happens to somebody else.

It's okay to feel good when life treats us right.'s okay to rejoice with others when life treats them right.

As Christ followers, we are really good at mourning with those who mourn, it's the rejoicing with those who rejoice part that stymies some of us.

I'm thankful I was with a group of guys that rejoiced with me.

Although Bob Konrath (our church business administrator) did tell me, "even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and again."

Let's all find something good to rejoice with those around us. The bad is evident enough.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

showing kindness in an unkind world

Wouldn't you agree with me that we live in an unkind world? I really can't point fingers at anybody - for there are times when I get frustrated and upset at the world around me.

That's why I have purposed in my heart to do at least, at least, one act of kindness every day. To consciously choose to show kindness to someone who isn't expecting it.

On the way to work today, I let someone trying to get onto LaGrange from a gas station cut in - in front of me.

I know it might not sound like a big deal, but if we compile several of those kinds of actions per day with everyone participating - it would make for a much nicer world.

It also makes me feel good.

I like this story:

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10 year old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. "How much is an ice cream sundae?"

"Fifty cents," replied the waitress. The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied a number of coins in it. "How much is a dish of plain ice cream?" he inquired. Some people were now waiting for a table and the waitress was a bit impatient. "Thirty-five cents," she said brusquely.

The little boy again counted the coins. "I'll have the plain ice cream," he said.

The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table without saying a word, and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and departed.

When the waitress came back, she began wiping down the table and then swallowed hard at what she saw. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies—- her tip.

May we all show kindness to someone today.

Monday, July 14, 2008

aging gracefully

It was my first time.

I was at the golf course on Friday and the young lady at the counter asked me if I was a "senior" and wanted the "senior rates".

It caused me to pause.

It's Monday and I still don't know how to react.

Should I be depressed? Should I "shout for joy"? Should I just go throughout my day and not pay attention to the fact that she thought I was in an advanced state of age?

What's your call? Let me poll the audience. How should I react?

I think I'll be depressed for a while and then "shout for joy". At least I reaching an age where people are beginning to listen to me.

You know you're getting older when:

Your joints are more accurate than the National Weather Service.
Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.
Your back goes out more than you do.
The twinkle in your eye is only the reflection of the sun on your bifocals.
You feel like the morning after when you haven't been anywhere the night before.
You finally got your head together, now your body is falling apart.
Your supply of brain cells is finally down to a manageable size.
You wake up with that morning-after feeling and you didn't do anything the night before.
You don't care where your wife goes, just so you don't have to go along.
It takes twice as long to look half as good.
Many of your co-workers were born the same year that you got your last promotion.
People call at 9 PM and ask, "Did I wake you?"
The clothes you've put away until they come back in style... have come back in style.
You look forward to a dull evening.
Your mind makes contracts your body can't keep.
The pharmacist has become your new best friend.
There's nothing left to learn the hard way.
You come to the conclusion that your worst enemy is gravity.
You start video taping daytime game shows.
You quit trying to hold your stomach in, no matter who walks into the room.
Your idea of a night out is sitting on the patio.
You look for your glasses for half-an-hour, then find they've been on your head all the time.
You wake up, looking like your driver's license picture.
Happy hour is a nap.
You begin every other sentence with, "Nowadays..."
You constantly talk about the price of gasoline.
You don't remember when your wild oats turned to shredded wheat.
You sing along with the elevator music.
You are proud of your lawn mower.
You wonder how you could be over the hill when you don't remember being on top of it.
The little gray-haired lady you help across the street is your wife.
Your idea of weight lifting is standing up.
Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can't remember them either.
Your ears are hairier than your head.
You have a party and the neighbors don't even realize it.
It takes longer to rest than it did to get tired.
You talk about "good grass" and you're referring to someone's lawn.
The end of your tie doesn't come anywhere near the top of your pants.
You give up all your bad habits and you still don't feel good.
Your childhood toys are now in a museum.
You can't remember the last time you laid on the floor to watch television.
You confuse having a clear conscience with having a bad memory.
You frequently find yourself telling people what a loaf of bread USED to cost.
You know all the answers, but nobody asks you the questions.
You enjoy hearing about other people's operations.
You got cable for the weather channel. Old Folks MTV!
Your new easy chair has more options than your car.
Your little black book only contains names ending in M.D.
Everything hurts and what doesn't hurt, doesn't work.
You find yourself beginning to like accordion music.
You have too much room in the house and not enough in the medicine cabinet.
You get into a heated argument about pension plans.
"Getting a little action" means you don't need to take a laxative.
Conversations with people your own age often turn into "dueling ailments."
You buy a compass for the dash of your car.
You take a metal detector to the beach.
The car that you bought brand new becomes an antique.
You are cautioned to slow down by the doctor instead of by the police.
You realize that caution is the only thing you care to exercise.
You don't remember being absentminded.
You have more patience; but actually, it's just that you don't care any more.
Your memory is shorter and your complaining is longer.
Your drugs of preference are now vitamins.
You tip more and carry less.
You read more and remember less.
You get propositioned by AARP.
Younger women start opening doors for you.
You begin to become invisible in the dating and mating game.
The highway patrol sigh or shake their heads but don't give you a ticket.
You scout for a warmer place to spend the long, cold winters.
You are no longer 'promising'.
Younger men ask you for advice.
You work on your short game.
Youthful injuries return with a vengeance.
Youthful indiscretions harden into bad habits.
You shop for health insurance the way you once shopped for a new car.
Your medical expenses go up 50%.
A 'late night' now ends at 11 pm.
You learn where your prostrate is.
You develop a knack for wearing hats.

Oh well......

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Be real about the past

It's human nature. We can't avoid it no matter how hard we try. We all do it.

We romanticize the past.

I read a story this week of a young woman who was reminiscing about her youth and she wrote: "I loved my uncle's ranch when I was a child! There was space to run unhampered, freedom to explore. The dust lay inches thick upon the trails, and running barefoot down the path of sifting powder was a sumptuous sort of feeling. The barn was my playground, full of animated toys. . . . The mint grew wild and plush beside the creek, and my aunt made berry pies and the smell would seek me out wherever I played . . . "

She goes on, however, to infuse some "reality" into those memories:

"If I am not careful, Lord, I can edit out these memories and forget that I got a bee sting where I picked the mint, and burned my tongue time and time again on the berry pies . . . or that the barn smelled just awful, or that the horse made my bottom sore, and the dust that felt like sifted powder made me sneeze all summer. . . . . But if I'm wise, I will remember that all of life has both of these things in it."

Many Christians fail to do God's work in the present because they are too busy romanticizing the past.

Lest we get carried away reminiscing about how "perfect" the past was, let's not forget that ALL of life--past, present, and future--has its good and bad points.

Let's be real about the past.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Embracing uncertainty

One of the life lessons I am learning is to embrace uncertainty. Things don't always have to be "lined up," and planned. "Winging it can be okay."

To those of you who are completely laid back, you are probably not going to connect to what I am writing. You might even respond by saying, "duh, I think I knew that."

However, for me, it is liberating. Let me explain by giving you something from Mark Batterson.

He writes in his book "In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day," about the joy that comes through unexpected things—a lesson he learned while on vacation with his family in Orlando, Florida - I quote:

"One morning we were sitting at a stoplight in our rental van. The light turned green, and the car in front of us didn't go, so I decided to give them a little "love tap" on the horn. But when I hit the horn, it got jammed, and I couldn't turn it off. The poor people in front of us! They must have thought I was a raging lunatic!

I quickly pulled into a gas station while everybody stared at us. We were mortified, but fortunately the horn stopped honking when I turned the van off. So I started the van back up, and we got onto the highway. About two miles down the road, the horn started honking again without me even touching it. Scout's honor. So we were driving down the highway at seventy miles per hour blaring our horn at everybody and their brother. I'm not sure what people were thinking, but it felt like we were screaming at people. Get out of my lane, sucker! This road belongs to us!

I honestly didn't know what to do. Malfunctioning horns weren't covered in my driver's ed class. So I did what I do whenever anything is broken: I hit it. I just kept pounding the horn, and it would actually stop honking for a few seconds. Then it would sporadically start honking again.

That fifteen-minute ride would rank as one of the most chaotic driving experiences of my adult life. But you know what? We're still laughing about it…. In fact, I don't think my kids will ever forget the now infamous "honking horn" incident.
Most of our trip was preplanned. We planned on swimming.

We planned on catching lizards. We planned on visiting the Magic Kingdom. And all of these planned activities were a blast. But the highlight of the trip was totally unplanned. You can't plan a horn malfunction. But that horn malfunction causes as much laughter as the rest of the trip combined.

Now here's my point: Some of the best things in life are totally unplanned and unscripted.

I'm not a movie critic, but in my humble entertainment estimation, the greatest movies have the highest levels of uncertainty. Whether the uncertainty is romantic or dramatic, scripts with the highest level of uncertainty make the best movies. In the same vein, I think high levels of uncertainty make the best lives. …

Faith is embracing the uncertainties of life. … It is recognizing a divine appointment when you see one.

Embrace relational uncertainty. It's called romance. Embrace spiritual uncertainty. It's called mystery. Embrace occupational uncertainty. It's called destiny. Embrace intellectual uncertainty. It's called revelation."

Great stuff!

May you be blessed with some uncertainty today!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The church revitalization or resurrection?

I was sent this today and thought I would share it with you. Interesting stuff.

Bill Easum writes in an article entitled, "eight signs of spiritually dead churches and six signs of a resurrection":

"For much of the past three decades, denominational officials have been promoting seminars and programs aimed at revitalizing the church. I know because I have been the speaker or consultant to many of these groups.

For many of these leaders, their goal was to breathe new life into churches experiencing declining memberships and lack of commitment. Yet after years of trying to revitalize these churches, the vast majority of them are still declining.

What gives?

Reformation, renewal, and revitalization assume some preexisting foundation of faith from which to raise up a new church. But what if that assumption isn't correct? What if the assumption is part of our problem? What if being a member of a church for 40 years doesn't automatically guarantee any spiritual depth?

What if holding every office in the church doesn't automatically mean someone is a disciple of Jesus Christ? Do we dare look deep enough into our souls to find answers to these questions?

Based on the conversations and actions of the thousands of Protestant leaders with whom I worked over the years, I have concluded that most of them are spiritually dead and their institutions have ceased being the church. They have the form but not the substance of what it means to be the church.

Let me define what I mean by spiritually dead churches.

If your church spends most of its energy on itself and its members, it's spiritually dead.

Such churches are living corpses. They are physically alive; some may even be growing; but they are spiritually dead to the mission of the New Testament church—to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

They've turned inward and exist solely for themselves. They look for ways to serve themselves, and the kingdom be damned.

They're like baby birds sitting in the nest with their mouths open waiting for momma bird (pastor) to feed them with no concept that Jesus intends them to feed others.

Oh, they might collect money to send away to some distant mission field, but they're all thumbs when it comes to sharing the good news with their neighbor or community.

What growth they might experience is not of their doing—it just happens because of the population growth around them.

Here are eight death clues. Spiritually dead churches:

Have lost their sense of mission to those who have not heard about Jesus Christ and do not pant after the Great Commission;

Exist primarily to provide fellowship for the 'members of the club;'

Expect their pastors to focus primarily on ministering to the members' personal spiritual needs;

Design ministry to meet the needs of their members;

Have no idea about the needs of the 'stranger outside the gates;

Are focused more on the past than the future;

Often experience major forms of conflict;

And watch the bottom line of the financial statement more than the number of confessions of faith.

Bringing life back

The starting point for unfreezing a stuck organizational system is the development of a solid community of faith that includes spiritual leaders, the absence of major conflict, trust, and a desire to connect with the unchurched world.

True spiritual maturity is approached when people turn their attention to those outside the church and seek ways to spread the good news rather than exercise their entitlements as members.

Unfortunately, too many pastors assume their church has spiritual leaders and skip right over this starting point.

It has become apparent to me that most church leaders do not understand that the decline of their church is due to the lack of spiritual depth on the part of their leadership.

So, now, I want to go deeper on the spiritual issue. It's not just that our churches are stuck; they are spiritually bankrupt!

I know. These churches are filled mostly with good Christian people, but there's no discernible spiritual power, just good Christian people—and we all know what Jesus said about being good. (Mark 10:18)

So it's obvious. Isn't it? The only solution for spiritually dead congregations is resurrection. You can't revitalize something that is dead. They must be brought to life again! And that is resurrection.

Revitalization is a waste of time. You can't breathe life into a corpse. Only God can do that, and that is resurrection.

My experience has taught me the resurrection of a church happens in three stages.

It begins with a new pastor. Either the pastor experiences a personal resurrection or the church actually gets a new pastor.

Next is the resurrection of the leaders of the church either by transformation or replacement.

Finally, the church itself is resurrected and turned around through some tactical change. Then, if resurrection happens, our behavior changes:

The church turns outward in its focus.

Jesus, not the institution, will become the object of our affection.

The Great Commission will become our mandate, and we will measure everything we do by how many new converts we make rather than whether we have a black bottom line.

Membership in the Kingdom will replace membership in the church.

Pastors will cease being chaplains of pastoral care and will become modern-day apostles of Jesus Christ.

And those who try to control the church with an iron fist or intimidate the church at every turn of the road will be shown the door.

The primary reason society is shunning the institutional church is because for the most part it is spiritually dead.

Spiritually alive churches, no matter what their form or where they are planted, always grow. That is the nature of the beast. That is the kind of church God honors. That is what the church was put on earth to do—spread the good news. When a church faithfully does that, it grows. Period."

Monday, July 07, 2008


Relocation requires flexibility.

One of my favorite Bible characters is Abraham. God calls him to leave his home, a place at that time of tremendous wealth.

God asks him to leave without knowing where he was going (God only told him that he would lead him to the right place).

Here's the kicker: for the rest of his life, Abraham and his family would live in tents and not houses.

God asks Abe and his family to go to a foreign land (to relocate) and a different culture, where they speak a different language with different foods and ways of living and Abe's response is: "Okay - no problem. No worries, man."

He lived in a permanent impermanence. He was, and here's our word of the day, he was flexible.

What is flexibility? It's the ability to adapt to changing circumstances without losing your focus or joy. It is the ability to go with the flow, to make the best out of any and every situation.

What's the opposite of flexibility? Unbelief. Disobedience. Living in a rut (A rut is a gave with both ends kicked out).

The African impala can jump to a height of over 10 feet and cover a distance of greater than 30 feet. Yet these magnificent creatures can be kept in an enclosure in any zoo with a 3-foot wall. The animals will not jump if they cannot see where their feet will fall. Faith (flexibility) is the ability to trust what we cannot see, and with faith (flexibility) we are freed from the flimsy enclosures of life that only fear allows to entrap us.

As people in God's kingdom we need to demonstrate and show flexibility to adopt new methods to reach the Southland of Chicago. We need be flexible as we relocate to 183rd street.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Seasons in the life of a church

I am a big believer in seasons in our lives. There are seasons of joy. There are seasons of sorrow. There are seasons of health. There are seasons of sickness. There are seasons of strength, there are seasons of fatigue.

The writer to the Ecclesiastes tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:1, "there is a time for everything and a SEASON for every activity under heaven."

What's true of us as individuals is true of us as a church family as well. There are seasons in the life of a living church.

There are seasons of growth and rapid advance. There are also seasons for discipleship and spiritual maturity.

What season are we in at Stone Church? After three seasons of divisiveness and disunity beginning in 1995, our church is ready for a breath of unity and peace.

Yet in this yearning for a time of relational wholeness, we must not relax and allow ourselves to plateau. We must press in and we must press on.

We have a good church filled with good people who want to do great things. The question becomes - are we willing? Are the negatives of the past going to continue to drag us down or can we release them and cut our emotional ties (so to speak) with them so that we an press on with a semblance of being healthy?

I believe so. No, let me rephrase that. I know so.

First Chronicles 12:32 tells us that the tribe of Issachar had 200 leaders "who understood the times and knew what Israel ought to do."

They understood their seasons from God's point of view. They recognized that not only is the flesh at work but the enemy is at work as well.

And they knew what God wanted accomplished.

A healthy church plans.
An unhealthy church solve problems.

A healthy church is:

Proactive and takes initiative for its ministry
Builds on and is renewed by its dream
Ministers to others

An unhealthy church is:

Reactive and surrenders its initiative for ministry
Declines and doubts itself to death
Must itself be ministered to.

We at Stone Church must constantly open ourselves to revitalization. We must dream again! To stand still is to die.

Help us to dream again, Lord!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

God is doing something new

When I was in college (Bethany Bible College), one of my mentors was a teacher by the name of Rick Howard. Rick prompted a group of us to get serious about our faith. To really focus on the kingdom. To think outside the box.

It made a profound impact upon me.

From Bethany, I transferred to Central Bible College from which I graduated. I took with me some of the ideas that Rick coached us on to the "Holy City," where I made new friends, friends who were being taught in the traditional atmosphere that CBC offers.

Ideas such as "koinoina", the church as a fellowship rather than a denomination and plurality of leadership were key points at that time.

Out of the group that I was in at CBC, each of the guys is now participating in some ministry outside the Assemblies of God, leaders in non denominational settings.

Only I remain as a pastor in the Assemblies and over the years God has led Debbie and I continually to lead and shepherd older, traditional churches that many times had seen their "greater days." Our ministry is one of "turning around" churches.

Most days the mission that God has given us excites me, some days (and they are few and far between) it feels like a heavy weight.

God has called upon Debbie and I to help a church, one more time, to transition. In our case at Stone Church, to relocate.

It's a new thing. God is doing something new in our church!

God is bringing about (and here's the six lettered word), change.

The changes that are coming are uncomfortable but necessary. Big steps need to be taken to assure that our church reaches new heights for God.

The problem with change is that the only people who like change are babies with wet diapers.

We hate change don't we!

In The Monday Morning Mission, Howard Hendricks lists five attitudes toward change:

1. Early innovators (2.6%), run with new ideas
2. Early adaptors (13.4%), influenced by (1) but not initiators
3. Slow Majority (34%), the herd-followers
4. Reluctant Majority (34%)
5. Antagonistic (16%), they will never change.

The Bible is clear: God is looking foe early innovators and early adapters. Isaiah 43:19 tells us, "Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert."

The question becomes, "are we going to show confidence in God's ability to "make a away in the wilderness" and "rivers in the desert"?

Change is inevitable (if we want to grow and live). If we do absolutely nothing change will still come. At that point, however, the change will be the painful decline and death of our church. We can sit by and watch the dreaded changes come, or we can adapt with God and experience the christian adventure.

God is going to do great things!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Relocating the church

As was stated at the information and business meeting that we had as a church to release a parcel of land in advance, the ideal, process and actual relocation of our church to 183rd street is becoming a reality.

It's been and up and down road since the church voted to sell our land and move in May, 2004.

For some, it's going to be an exciting time.

For others, it will be a stretch. I understand that.

Let me give you a few reasons why.

First, relocation can threaten the sentimental attachment to a building that people have. I can remember when they tore down old Bowie hall (the women's dorm) at CBC. It needed to go. Yet, it was a little bit difficult because my mother and my wife lived in that dorm.

Memories are powerful equations in the relocation process. We can have what is called "place attachment". On an emotional level, what is sentimental and what is spiritual may feel similar.

We will probably here comments like:

"We were married here and, then, our daughters were married here."
"My mother taught Sunday School in this classroom for 45 years."
"I was sitting in these chairs when I was saved."
"Everyone in our family was baptized in this church."
"Some of my earliest childhood memories are of being in this sanctuary."

Honest, good comments.

Secondly, relocation offers radical change to senior adults when they are least able to process any change. And no one likes change except babies with wet diapers.

Thirdly, it attacks the pride of some members. While some moved out of the community and commute to church, many have chosen to stay. Some stay because they cannot afford to move.

Some feel a kind of ownership in the community. "This is my community and no one is going to take it from me."

Fourthly, it will make some members feel their "sweat equity" was in vain. The one thing they thought they had a part in that would outlive them, won't endure after all.

While it is not being said, either intentionally or unintentionally, they filter a relocation as saying that they have wasted their lives by building up the current building. Of course, what we are really challenging them to do is invest their lives in something fresh. It is "one more time" to do something great for God.

Fifthly, it will challenge many members theology. Most Christians think of the church as a building. And not just any building. Their building. When we say, "let's go to church" we mean the building.

Others will feel and resent the fact that some "Johnny come lately's" are trying to "take away our church."

Let's say it again. The church is not a building, the church is an organism. Jesus is the church's only Owner. Stone church is not my church, nor is it your church, but it is God's church.

Ultimately, the question of relocation comes down to our most deeply held doctrinal belief - what we really believe.

It's first of all a matter of theology and then a question of strategy.

Finally, and it must be said, we will face Satanic opposition. The enemy will fight God's will just because it is God's will.

He will twist the thoughts of the unsuspecting. He will spread lies and he will arouse dark emotions. To be willing to relocate is a test of spiritual commitment. The devil will fight that.

Please don't misunderstand me. I am not even suggesting that a member who opposes relocation is an instrument of the devil or that they are not thinking Biblically about the nature of the church. However, I am saying that the enemy will attack and try to take us by surprise and we must be ready for that.