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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?